Eagles Ace Competition in 4-0 Weekend

Emory sophomore outside hitter Morgan McKnight (No. 6) and junior middle hitter Sydney Leimbach (No. 15) jump for a block in the Eagles’ victory over Desales University (Pa.). Katherine Solarte/Staff

Emory women’s volleyball returned home this weekend to claim four victories in the Emory Classic, where the Eagles faced four teams during their home debut this season. The team won its matches against Howard Payne University (Texas) and Chapman University (Calif.) 3-0 Sept. 8 and picked up two more victories Sept. 9, winning 3-0 against both Millsaps College (Miss.) and DeSales University (Pa.).

Scores of people filled the WoodPEC stands to see this year’s volleyball squad. While the stands were packed with a recorded attendance of 400 spectators for the Eagles’ match against Chapman, the crowd’s noise-level paled in comparison to the athletes themselves, who continued their cheering traditions with individualized chants for every player.

Sweeping the court on Friday afternoon, the Eagles showed that they were by far the strongest team. In these first two games, it became clear that Emory’s athletes brought their A-game, receiving and attacking everything that came their way.

The Eagles excelled offensively, with a .355 average kill percentage over the weekend.

In the first game against Howard Payne, the opposing team tended to play off the Eagles’ mistakes more so than off their own strengths. Emory maintained a .376 kill percentage compared to Howard Payne’s overall .066.

Senior captain and setter Hannah Billings noted the fantastic setting work of junior setter Mady Arles, who lifted the team with her offensive work in the second game against Chapman.

The Eagles huddle on their home court in the WoodPEC. Katherine Solarte/Staff

The Eagles’ game against Chapman was much more of a back-and-forth affair. Emory won the three sets 25-18, 25-14 and 25-22, making Chapman the most formidable test for the Eagles over the weekend.

The Eagles’ lethal offense shined in their matches against Millsaps and DeSales Saturday afternoon, as each opponent tried and failed to keep up with the scoring wrath of Emory’s hitters. In the DeSales game, sophomore outside hitters Sara Carr made 23 hits and Morgan McKnight made 25.

Despite winning 12 consecutive sets this weekend, Head Coach Jenny McDowell acknowledged that, like any growing team, her squad still has room for improvement.

“We’re going to continue working on our serving,” McDowell said. “We have to serve at a higher success rate.”

Serving continued to be a serious setback for the Eagles in these four games. The lost points on serves were not enough to put Emory behind, but the errors made for a tighter game. In the first set of the Millsaps game, with Emory leading 12-6, half of Millsaps’ points had come from missed Emory serves.

On the other hand, Millsaps continued to have difficulty receiving those serves that did land within the lines. During the first set, sophomore defensive specialist Elyse Thompson helped the Eagles to six straight points at the serving position.

McDowell said that she is still trying to straighten out the lineup. With 26 players and only six spots on the court at once, deciding who to put on the floor can be a difficult undertaking.

As the Eagles look forward to the rest of their season, Billings says she is excited to “impart a legacy on the Emory volleyball team.”

“We want to show everyone what Emory volleyball is all about,” Billings said. “We ultimately want to win our conference and a national championship, and it’s truly a team effort.”

Due to the unsafe traveling conditions caused by Hurricane Irma, Emory cancelled its game against Lee College (Texas) Sept. 11 in Cleveland, Tenn. The match has yet to be rescheduled.

Next weekend, the Eagles remain in Atlanta for the Emory National Classic, facing Claremont McKenna College (Calif.) Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. and Juniata College (Penn.) Sept. 16 at 6 p.m.