First-years take on ODAC Tournament

Featured Image: Sophomore Hannah Smith and senior Emma Claytor go for the block in a home game against Guilford College on Nov. 7. Laila Jones | Marlin Chronicle

Sophomore Hannah Smith and senior Emma Claytor go for the block in a home game against Guilford College on Nov. 7.

The fall sports season at Virginia Wesleyan University reached a crescendo with the Men’s and Women’s Soccer teams, along with the Women’s Volleyball team, showcasing their talents and tenacity in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) tournament. 

The ODAC tournament is a highly competitive postseason event that brings together collegiate sports teams from member institutions within the conference. Designed to determine a champion in various sports, including soccer and volleyball, the tournament showcases the pinnacle of athletic achievement within the conference.

First-year Stephanie Koblish on the Women’s Soccer team was excited to be a part of the action for the first time.“The ODAC tournament was super competitive and fun to play in. We took it game by game and gave it our all,” she said. 

Teams compete in a series of elimination rounds, culminating in a final match or game where the ultimate champion is crowned. The ODAC tournament serves as a crucial platform for teams to demonstrate their skills, determination and teamwork, providing a thrilling spectacle for both athletes and fans alike.

The Women’s Soccer team was crowned champions of the ODAC conference. Koblish’s eyes sparkled with excitement as she delved into the heart of the ODAC tournament. 

The team’s strategy was clear: trust in their abilities and approach each match with unwavering determination. The hard work invested throughout the season reached its zenith as they clinched the ODAC title, a testament to their collective effort and skill.

For Koblish, this ODAC tournament held special significance as her first important tournament with the team. Despite feeling nervous, she reveled in the overwhelming excitement of participating in a big tournament. “I was beyond excited to go into the tournament with this team,” Koblish said. 

The support of her teammates played a crucial role in settling her nerves, allowing Koblish to contribute effectively to the team’s success. The transition from regular season matches to the intensity of tournament play was not without its challenges, especially for a first-year like Koblish. 

“Being a freshman, I was definitely a little overwhelmed because it was my first time playing in a big tournament with the team,” she said. However, as soon as she stepped onto the field, the nerves dissipated, and the weight of the moment lifted as the team played their hearts out. 

The whistle blew, signaling their victory in the ODAC final, and Koblish felt a profound sense of relief. Furthermore, playing on their home field brought an additional layer of significance to the Women’s Soccer team’s triumph. 

Koblish recounted the season’s unbeaten streak at home, emphasizing how it contributed to a boost in confidence. “It was great playing at home,” she said. The comfort of familiar surroundings and the support of their fans created an environment where success felt natural. 

The team’s goals for the tournament were straightforward. Koblish said, “Our goal was to stay focused and play to our best ability as a team.” Their hard work and determination culminated in winning the ODAC, a result that filled Koblish with immense pride. 

Looking ahead, she emphasized the need to maintain the same work rate and mentality for the upcoming NCAA tournament.

The Men’s Soccer team advanced until the semifinals. First-year soccer player Josh Vincent reflects positively on the season, emphasizing the significant progress the squad has made. He notes that the team has set a real milestone for the program, indicating a promising future. The camaraderie and hard work put in by the players has contributed to a successful season, setting the stage for their tournament endeavors. 

Vincent describes the ODAC tournament as a great experience, and appreciated the pivotal role every team member played. Despite falling short in overtime during the semifinals, Vincent expressed gratitude for the opportunity to participate. 

“As many would say, we deserved more, but that is the way the game goes sometimes, and we look to make another great effort next year,” Vincent said. 

For Vincent, the ODAC tournament marked his first significant foray into postseason play. “I was so thankful to have made it with my team,” he said. 

Looking ahead, Vincent eagerly anticipates participating in the tournament throughout his four years at VWU. Participating in a tournament was a thrilling experience for him. He noted the hard work and effort put in by each team member on and off the field, emphasizing the bonds forged through shared challenges. 

While the ultimate goal was to secure a spot in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament, Vincent acknowledges the unpredictable nature of sports and appreciates the journey and camaraderie that define the tournament experience. 

Playing away from home presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities. Vincent acknowledges the adjustments required, but also emphasized the sense of unity that comes from facing challenges together. The support and encouragement of teammates and coaching staff contributed to creating a home-away-from-home atmosphere, fostering resilience and teamwork on the road. 

Vincent shared that the primary goal for the tournament was to win and advance to the NCAA. While acknowledging that not everything goes as planned in sports, he remains proud of the team’s efforts and accomplishments throughout the season. Vincent expressed satisfaction with the progress made and looks forward to building on this success in the upcoming years, aiming for an even greater impact.

The VWU Women’s Volleyball team has also been having a remarkable season. As first-year Avery Lewis said, “It’s the best season the team has had so far.” The team’s journey in the ODAC tournament has been exceptional, securing a coveted spot in the final. Unfortunately, the team lost the final to Washington & Lee University.  “Losing when you’re that close always hurts,” Lewis said. 

The ODAC tournament has been a memorable chapter in the fall sports season for VWU’s Men’s and Women’s Soccer teams and Women’s Volleyball.


By: Maria Vittoria Chessa