This past weekend, the fourth-ranked women’s volleyball team went a perfect 4-0 in the Maryville College Invitational, defeating the Rhodes College Lynx (Tenn.), the Washington and Lee Generals (Va.), the Centre College Colonels (Ky.) and the Hanover College Panthers (In.).

“I do think we are one of the top programs in the country, but we will have to improve every day if we are to reach the lofty goals we have set for ourselves,” Head Coach Jenny McDowell wrote in an email to the Wheel. “I am 100 percent confident [our] players are up for the challenge.”

The women were more than up for the challenge in their first game in the Maryville Invitational, as the Eagles bested the Rhodes 3-1 in their first match of the tournament.

Against the Lynx, the Eagles came out firing on all cylinders and easily won the first game 25-14. Rhodes came back to claim the second game 11-25, but the team regained control of the match in game three. The women won 25-23 and sealed the victory in game four (25-17).

The sophomore trio of middle and outside hitter Kate Bowman, outside hitter Cami Silverman and right side hitter Hannah Everett led the Eagles to victory. Bowman ended the match with 10 kills, Silverman eight kills and 12 digs and Everett three aces.

Highly lauded freshman Taylor Erwin, in her first game as a collegiate athlete, already looked experienced and battle-tested while registering a game-high 17 digs.

In their next game against the Washington and Lee Generals, the Eagles flew their way to a quick 2-0 start, winning the first game 25-16 and the second 25-14. Game three was a closer contest, but Emory still managed a 25-21 victory.

Erwin picked up where she left off against Rhodes with a team-high ten digs, while freshman setter Sydney Miles pulled off her best Rajon Rondo impersonation by dropping an impressive 24 assists. Team Captain and 2011 First Team All-America honoree senior Breanah Bourque registered seven attacks and attained her 11th block of the day against the Generals.

The presence of Bourque in the front court is a constant reminder that even though the Eagles this year are young, there is still savvy, experienced leadership on the team.

As a captain, Bourque plans to lead her younger teammates by example.

“[I am going to lead] just by being myself, working hard and enjoying playing volleyball and spending the weekend with everyone,” Bourque  wrote in an email to the Wheel. “Nothing too special.”

McDowell, however, considers the leadership of Bourque and the other three seniors on the team to be so exemplary that it will take the Eagles far this year.

“We have great leadership with Alex, Breanah, Alena Ransom and Taylor Trew, our four seniors, so I know we are in good hands,” McDowell wrote.

In the team’s next match against the Centre College Colonels (1-3), Bourque paced the Eagles to a 3-0 victory with a 12-kill effort.

The Eagles were tested in the first and third games but secured an easy win in game two.

Erwin once again delivered an impressive with 22 digs, while sophomore Dana Holt ran the show like Magic on the Showtime Lakers with a huge 37 assists. Bowman recorded eight kills and two aces.

In the final match of the Invitational, the Eagles continued their success with a 3-0 win against Hanover College. The Panthers kept things close in games one and two (25-20, 25-20), but the Eagles made quick work of them in game three (25-12).

Bourque recorded four blocks, while Miles (37 assists) and Erwin (13 digs) shone once again in their fourth collegiate game.

After the tournament, Bourque was pleased with the team’s performance in the Invitational.

However, she always seeks ways to improve and is looking forward to the post-season.

“There were points over the tournament where you could see how great this team is going to be, which makes me really excited to work hard so [that] we are always playing at that level come November,” Bourque wrote.

McDowell was satisfied as well with this weekend’s results, but she knows that the best is yet to come.

“I think this team will continue to improve every week because they are so hungry to carry the legacy of previous teams,” McDowell wrote. “I will not be surprised if we are one of the top teams in the country come November when the National Championship is up for grabs.”

– By Zonair Khan