The No. 1 nationally ranked Emory volleyball team continued their flawless start to the 2019 season after going a perfect 3-0 at the Berry National Invitational in Rome, Ga., on Sept. 6 and 7. The victories extend the program’s winning streak from last year’s championship run to 15 games.
While Head Coach Jenny McDowell is encouraged by the early success, results at this stage aren’t overly important.
“We don’t put too much on one match,” McDowell said. “Each individual [player] will improve every day.”
In the first game of the invitational, Emory squared off against the No. 14 Christopher Newport University (Va.) Captains in a battle of two nationally ranked teams.
The Eagles started strong and won the first set 25-22 with five kills in the last seven points after the score was tied 20-20. Freshman setter Cassie Srb provided two of the kills, combining her occasional attacks with 34 assists.
The second set proved similar to the first as the Eagles once again gained separation late to win 25-22. The third set was not as close, and Emory comfortably secured the victory by a score of 25-19. Senior outside hitter Morgan McKnight and sophomore outside hitter Tara Martin led the way offensively with 11 and nine kills, respectively.
McKnight believes in the team’s ability to consistently win sets in tight games.
“We are very confident in our abilities and know that we have to take every match one point at a time,” McKnight said.
The Eagles continued their momentum into the second match of the invitational against Covenant College (Ga.). After a 25-19 first-set win, Emory dominated 25-14 in the second set, and produced a staggering .682 hitting percentage. Covenant didn’t go down so easily in the third set and evened the score at 14. But four straight points by the Eagles broke the deadlock, and a final score of 25-21 in favor of Emory completed the sweep.
McDowell has been especially pleased with her team’s hitting at this point in the season.
“This is the best hitting percentage we’ve had in the first month,” McDowell said. “We are winning the serving and passing game to support [the hitting].”
Emory’s third match against No. 8 Berry College (Ga.) lived up to the high expectations that come with a matchup between two of the best teams in the country. The margin for error was razor-thin, and none of the five sets were decided by more than four points.
Emory took a commanding 2-0 lead, winning the first set 25-23 and the second 25-22. Berry responded well in front of their home crowd, taking the third and fourth sets to force a winner-take-all fifth set. Berry continued to put pressure on Emory in the deciding set and took a 13-9 lead before the Eagles roared back to take the final six points and clinch the match, 15-13.
McKnight is pleased with the way her team has responded to challenges so far.
“There will always be ups and downs,” McKnight said. “We’re just focusing on coming together and getting the job done with a fervor and passion for the game.”
The Eagles are set to head out to St. Louis, Mo. for three matches against the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges (Calif.), Juniata College (Pa.) and California Lutheran University on Sept. 13 and 14.