Senior middle hitter Amanda Meyer attacks the ball against Greensboro College (N.C.) on Sept. 2. Emory won the game 3-0. (Natalie Sandlow/Staff Photographer)

Emory University’s volleyball team, ranked No. 13 in the nation, aims to capture their 11th University Athletic Association (UAA) title and third national championship title this season. This year, the team has a new head coach, Brianna Jones, who returns to the program after two successful seasons as head coach at the Stevens Institute of Technology (N.J).

Last season, the team had an overall record of 22-7, which included a ten-match win streak between October and November. In the 2022 UAA Tournament, Emory defeated Case Western Reserve University (Ohio.) (3-0), New York University (NYU) (3-1) and Washington University in St. Louis (WashU) (3-0) to earn their fourth conference title in five years.

The Eagles carried this winning momentum into the first round of the 2022 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship by defeating Bethany College (W.Va.) (3-0). Despite a strong effort, the team eventually fell in the second round to Transylvania University (Ky.) (3-2).

Shortly after the end of the 2022 season, former Emory Volleyball Head Coach Jenny McDowell announced her retirement. During her 27-year coaching career at Emory, McDowell won 10 UAA titles and two national championship titles. As a tribute to her success, the team named their first invitational of the 2023 season in her honor.

“Something that Jenny really loved was to compete,” Jones said. “It was her favorite part of coaching, so it was only right to call a tournament her name. And then for us to open up that way — it’s really exciting.”

The team kicked off their season with three 3-0 wins against Centre College (Ky.), Greensboro College (N.C.) and East Texas Baptist University at the Jenny McDowell Invitational.

Jones said her season goals include creating a cohesive team unit and keeping the winning spirit of the program alive. Additionally, she said that the team will focus on maintaining consistency and being “mentally strong and stable.”

Senior outside hitter Carly Wallace, one of two current seniors on the team, had a team-high of 315 kills and earned regional and national honors last season. Wallace said working with Jones this season has been a great new experience after McDowell coached her for three years.

“She’s been implementing lots of new things for us,” Wallace said. “She does a good job of explaining her thought process and a good job of taking a step back when she needs to and letting us try to work things out on our own.”

Wallace anticipates a high level of competition this year in the UAA. She said the team will target improvement on the mental side of the game to overcome close battles with top teams in the conference like NYU and WashU.

“We always want to be the hardest-working team and have consistently good energy in every game that we’re playing, so that’s something that we want to work on,” Wallace said.

Jones said she is excited to work with some of the upperclassmen she helped recruit when she served as an assistant coach for the team between 2017 and 202o. She also said she is looking forward to working with incoming freshmen.

“It’s just such a talented class,” Jones said. “I’m excited to watch them grow and watch them get implemented into our systems and become true Emory volleyball players.”

Wallace said that she is pleased to see new leaders emerging on the team in addition to her and senior middle hitter Amanda Meyer.

“Last year, we had two seniors and two juniors, so we were really an underclassmen-heavy team,” Wallace said. “This year, I’m seeing a lot more of the sophomores and juniors that are returning take more leadership and ownership over the team.”

Jones said the talented group will target both a UAA title and national championship title this season. To achieve that goal, both Jones and Wallace acknowledged that recovering quickly from errors and losses will be a key factor.

“We’re always learning and trying to get better,” Wallace said. “I think something [we learned last season] was dealing with losses in a positive way … knowing that can happen and trying to put a little less pressure on ourselves to be perfect all the time.”

After a 3-0 start, the volleyball team will next play at home against Oglethorpe University (Ga.) on Sept. 15 at 6 p.m.

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Madeline Shapiro (she/her) (26C) is from Stamford, Connecticut and is planning on majoring in creative writing and classic civilizations. She enjoys playing low-stakes games of soccer and spending time outdoors, as well as watching as many Premier League games as possible.