At Emory’s Sept. 15 home game against Claremont McKenna College (Calif.), more than 500 spectators sit in attendance to witness the Eagles’ impressive 3-1 victory. Photo Courtesy of Sharon Waddell.

The Emory women’s volleyball team emerged victorious in two nail-biting matches at home this weekend. The Eagles won their first game against Claremont McKenna College (Calif.) 3-1 Sept. 15 and their second against Juniata College (Penn.) in a 3-0 victory Sept. 16. The Eagles now have a record of 8-1.

During what Head Coach Jenny McDowell called “the best match of the year to date,” No. 4 Emory faced off against No. 8 Claremont McKenna in what was nothing short of a battle on the court.

The match reached a high level of intensity from the get-go, with impressive kills from both sophomore outside hitter Sara Carr and freshman right side Leah Saunders. While Claremont continued to fight back, countering the Eagles’ attacks with timely digs and key blocks, Emory never stood in a losing position.

Sophomore defensive specialist Andie McKinnon noted how the attendance of more than 500 spectators contributed to the Eagles’ success.

“So many people were out there supporting us on Friday night, and it really just added to our excitement,” McKinnon said.

Despite the season-high attendance numbers, things took a turn in Claremont’s favor during the second set, when Emory lost several points by way of attack errors. The Eagles returned in the third set to win 25-19. In what ended up being the final set of the game, the Eagles and Athenas were tied 25-25. As a result of striking kills by both sophomore outside hitters Morgan McKnight and Saunders, and setting provided by junior setter Mady Arles, the Eagles managed to clinch two consecutive points and claim victory.

The Juniata game started quickly with a challenge on both sides of the court to keep the ball alive, as the visiting team began in the lead with a strong kill. Emory quickly bounced back thanks to an attack error by Juniata and a kill by freshman middle hitter Maggie Rimmel. The scoreboard remained tight with Emory taking the lead by only a point or two throughout the first set.

Juniata found success at the net, providing some impressive blocks and tips. Tensions were high on both sides of the net and both teams were quick to call time outs and regroup.

While Emory’s overall level of play was not up to its usual standards, the performance from the backline defense issued a reminder of the levels that the team was capable of achieving.

“I thought our defense carried us yesterday and that we have a really great back court,” McDowell said. “Knowing we’re really solid in the back row gives us a lot of confidence.”

The Eagles ended up winning the three sets of the game by two, five and seven points respectively.

McKinnon noted how each player contributed to this weekend’s victories.

“All our positions have been working hard individually, and that hard work shows off in the games,” McKinnon said. “Blockers have been working really hard on closing blocks, offense has been working on different shots and defense has been all about focusing on being in the right place. We’re meshing together on court and that’s translating into us being a well-oiled machine.”

Going forward, the team is looking to keep working toward a higher level of play, McKinnon said.

“[McDowell] has been stressing working on the things that we can control, like serving or being in the right place for defense,” McKinnon said. “It’s all about the smaller details that can be forgotten sometimes.”

The Eagles will travel to Lexington, Ky. Sept. 22 to face off against Transylvania University (Ky.) at 7 p.m. On Sept. 23 the Eagles will play Heidelberg College (Ohio) at noon and Bowdoin College (Maine) at 2 p.m.