Women Set Up Road to Success

Senior middle hitter Sydney Leimbach faces off against two Berry College (Ga.) blockers at the Emory National Tournament on Sept. 7. The Eagles swept the Vikings 3-0. Forrest Martin/Senior Staff

The Emory women’s volleyball team swept the competition this weekend at the Emory National Tournament. The Eagles won 3-0 against Transylvania University (Ky.), Otterbein University (Ohio), Berry College (Ga.) and Tufts University (Mass.) and 3-1 against Whitworth University (Wash.).

The weekend puts the Eagles in a six-game win streak and a 7-1 overall season status.

In the first match against the Transylvania Pioneers, junior outside hitter Morgan McKnight posted an impressive 27 attacks and eight kills. The Eagles’ long-serving streaks throughout each of the three sets established their clear lead over the Pioneers.

McKnight gave the Eagles a solid four-point lead with a series of strong serves in the first set. Senior setter Mady Arles’ consistent serves helped the team reach 22 points later in the set. Only in the third set did Transylvania’s final score reach 20 points.

Head Coach Jenny McDowell praised the team’s overall prowess.

“Our strength of the team is the team,” McDowell said.

Emphasizing the contributions of each member in a 29-player team is critical to the overall mentality going into each game. With so many strong players, McDowell has an impressive toolbelt to work with as she makes decisions on who to put on the court.

“It’s always a good sign when you feel like we’ve been together for a few seasons already,” junior outside hitter Sara Carr said. “We’re molding so well together and feeling like we’ve been playing together longer than we have.”

McKnight has been a major asset for the Eagles, and continued to help Emory shine in game two against Berry, making 30 attacks and 12 kills.

Junior libero Elyse Thompson kept the defense strong with 22 digs in the three sets.

Carr said the Berry game was the most memorable of the weekend.

“This was a game of energy,” Carr said. “We did a great job of [keeping] our energy high on our side of the net.”

Berry, a major regional Emory rival, put up a respectable fight, but failed to send the Eagles flying.

“They’d have their big hits, and we had our flashy points,” Carr said. “It was a tough match, but I think we played with a high level of maturity and were able to take it one point at a time.”

The even bigger challenge of the weekend came on Saturday afternoon against Whitworth, the only opponent of the five schools to take a set from the Eagles. While Emory began strong with a 25-17 win in the first set, Whitworth took the second 25-22. Emory battled back to win the third set 25-20 and the fourth 26-24.

McDowell said she is proud of the senior class, a squad of six this year. Seniors such as setter and right side Carly Saitman, defensive specialist Mila Barzdukas and defensive specialist and libero Becky Breuer have served as crucial members of the volleyball program over the past three years and have only matured since beginning to play for McDowell, she said.

Looking forward to over a month on the road, the team hopes to accomplish a series of goals. One of the most important is to find a sense of team culture and personality.

“I think we’re really working to find what this team’s identity is,” McDowell said.

The Eagles will make their way to Claremont, Calif., for the East-West Challenge where they will play Juniata College (Pa.) and Claremont McKenna College (Calif.) on Sept. 14 and the University of Texas at Dallas on Sept. 15.

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