The fifth-ranked volleyball team competed in the Trinity University Invitational this weekend, winning matches against sixth-ranked California Lutheran University (Calif.), fourth-ranked Christopher Newport University (Va.) and tournament-host Trinity University (Texas), and losing to Southwestern University (Texas). The Eagles record now stands at 11-2 for the season.
“I am so proud of the way our team played and competed,” Head Coach Jenny McDowell wrote in an email to the Wheel. “We played four very talented opponents and we had to play with incredible focus and intensity over an extended period of time. Our team showed incredible heart and determination.”
In their first match of the tournament, the Eagles defeated the Cal Lutheran Regals 3-2. The Kingsmen won the first two sets of the match by scores of 25-21 and 25-22. Down by two, the Eagles’ backs were against the wall.
“When we were down 0-2, we really just focused on taking each set one point at a time,” senior middle hitter Breanah Bourque wrote in an email to the Wheel. “We put the first two losses out of our minds and tried to have more fun. We play better when we are having fun on the court. We didn’t let ourselves freak out, but stayed collected and kept grinding through the match.”
Emory came out strong in the third set and rallied to a 17-13 lead. However, at that point the Regals scored five consecutive points to take a 18-17 lead. The Eagles then regained the lead 20-18 and, after allowing one more point, closed out the game with a 5-0 run to win 25-1 and stay alive for a fourth game.
The Regals nearly put the match away in the fourth set, claiming a 16-10 lead. The Eagles managed to bring the score to 16-15 and, after allowing two more points, went on a 7-1 run and eventually claimed a 25-22 victory to force a fifth and deciding set.
The Eagles easily won the fifth set 15-10. It grabbed a 7-3 lead early and pushed it to 12-7 before closing out the set and match.
“We never gave up,” McDowell wrote. “Being down 0-2 showed the character and guts of this team.”
In their second game against the Christopher Newport Captains, the Eagles faced another tough match-up. The Captains, who were ranked one spot higher than Emory, won the first set in dominating fashion, 25-10.
The Eagles recovered to win the next two sets, by scores of 26-24 and 25-17. Christopher Newport managed to pull out a 25-22 victory in the fourth set, but in the fifth the Eagles won 15-12 to claim their fourth five set victory of the season.
Senior middle hitters Bourque and Alex Duhl led the Eagles offensively, each chipping in 12 kills, with Duhl also contributing 2 blocks. Sophomore middle and outside hitter Kate Bowman had 11 kills. The Eagles collectively on defense managed 92 digs.
“Both Breanah Bourque and Kate Bowman did very well,” McDowell wrote. “Because of the long matches, we had to have quite a few players step up at different times, which is clearly the strength of our team. We have 17 incredible players that understand it is all about team, not individual performances.”
In the third match of their tournament, the Eagles lost to the Southwestern Pirates 3-2. The match was a defensive battle. Between the two teams there were a total of 364 attack attempts and 181 digs. After splitting the first four sets, the Pirates jumped out to a 10-6 lead in the fifth set. The Eagles managed to tie the game at 10-10, but a kill and two hitting errors brought the Pirates’ lead to 14-11. Southwestern subsequently closed out the match to give the Eagles their lone loss of the tournament.
“I think we realized in our game versus Southwestern that we need to finish the match when we have the opportunity and dictate the pace of the match,” Bourque wrote. “We were up by around seven points and let them come back and win it, that won’t happen again.”
In their final match of the weekend, the Eagles defeated the Trinity Tigers 3-2. As they did with Cal Lutheran in their first match, the Eagles were forced to come back from a 2-0 deficit after Trinity won the first two setds 25-15 and 25-22.
Over the final three games, however, the Eagles trailed only once, when Trinity won the first point of the fifth set.
Bourque led the Eagles comeback, with 15 kills and only one error in the match. Bowman also contributed 16 kills and 20 digs, and Duhl added eight kills and two blocks.
Defensively, junior defensive specialist Sarah Taub earned 28 digs, and freshman Taylor Erwin chipped in 15 digs and 5 service aces.
“This was one of the toughest tournaments we have had the opportunity to play in,” McDowell wrote. “For us to see the fourth and sixth ranked teams in the country on the same day made the trip extra special.”
The Eagles will next compete when they host the Emory Invitational, which begins at 5 p.m. this evening when they face Randolph-Macon College (Va.).
By Bennett Ostdiek