Emory’s women’s volleyball team once again swept the court this weekend with three victories. The Eagles won 3-0 against Transylvania University (Ky.) Sept. 22, 3-1 against Heidelberg College (Ohio) and 3-0 against Bowdoin College (Maine) on Sept. 23.
The Eagles celebrate a 10-game winning streak, with only one loss out of their 11 games this season.
“I don’t think anyone outside of our program thought we’d be at 11-1 with such a young team,” Head Coach Jenny McDowell said. “But I believe in us, and I’ve always believed in us.”
The Eagles attribute many of these wins to their defensive play, which is “as good as it’s ever been,” according to McDowell.
Friday’s game against Transylvania started off slow, as the opposing team won three points right off the bat. But the Eagles quickly came back with serves from sophomore defensive specialist Elyse Thompson and kills by freshman right side Leah Saunders and sophomore outside hitter Morgan McKnight. Thompson’s serves and digs, combined with Saunder and McKnight’s offensive skills, were critical to the Eagles’ success all three sets, which they won 25-19, 25-17 and 25-17, respectively.
The second game of the weekend proved to be a greater challenge for the Eagles, but Emory managed to pick up another win. One of the most notable moments of the match came at the end of the second set. From a score of 23-23, the two teams were neck and neck until Heidelberg managed to pull ahead and win by two for a final set score of 30-28. Despite the loss, the Eagles returned for their third and fourth sets to win the match 3-1.
The team captured one more win from the weekend, defeating Bowdoin 3-0. Bowdoin still served as tough competition for Emory, keeping the score tight throughout all three sets. But with great strength coming from the Eagles’ middle and defensive positions, the team earned yet another strong victory.
Captain and junior middle Sydney Leimbach, who has had a remarkable season thus far, continued to shine on the court this weekend, maintaining a .583 kill percentage in the Heidelberg match.
“Leimbach is outstanding and had a great weekend,” junior setter Mady Arles said. “She’s one of the most consistent players we have.”
In addition to the junior star, McDowell praised sophomore outside hitter Sara Carr, who had 23 total attacks and a .435 kill percentage in the Bowdoin game. Despite her young age, Carr has become a valuable asset for the Eagles.
“Carr is an unsung hero for us,” McDowell said. “She does so many things for us that don’t always show up on the scoreboard. She leads by her work ethic and is one of the hardest working players I’ve ever had here at Emory.”
McDowell emphasized that the team’s recent success is due in large part to improved chemistry. Arles reiterated that sentiment.
“This weekend has taught us a lot about things we want to work on, like covering or picking up tips,” Arles said. “It’s a great sign when a team can go on the road for a six-hour bus trip and, after such a big weekend [prior], still pull out those wins.”
As an NCAA rule, Emory must schedule 70 percent of women’s volleyball games against Southern region teams, such as the three schools they faced this weekend. But as September nears its end, the Eagles know that UAA conference play is just around the corner.
“We all take the conference so seriously,” Arles said. “This is our favorite time of the season … and we’re not here to mess around.”
The Eagles will return home Sept. 28 to play Covenant College (Ga.) at 7 p.m. The team will then travel to Cleveland, Ohio, for the UAA Round Robin I, where they will face the University of Rochester (N.Y.) at noon and Brandeis University (Mass.) at 2 p.m., Sept. 30, and the University of Chicago at noon on Oct. 1.