Over the weekend of Oct. 29, Emory University volleyball faced off against Hendrix College (Ark.), Birmingham-Southern College (Ala.) and Berry College (Ga.) in the Emory National Invite at the Woodruff Physical Education Center. The team finished the weekend 2-1 and improved to 21-4 overall. 

The Eagles’ senior day fell on Oct. 29, when they played Hendrix and Birmingham-Southern. Following the celebration, the Eagles battled Berry on Oct. 30 to cap off the tournament.

The Eagles dropped the first set to Hendrix but were able to bounce back and win the final three sets 25-16, 25-13, 25-22. The Eagles attacked at a .276 percentage with senior outside hitter Tara Martin, freshman middle hitter Madison Cail and freshman right side Alana Dawson setting the pace for the team with double-digit kills each. Junior setter Cassie Srb contributed 45 assists, which is three more than the entire Hendrix team. 

Following the match, the Eagles recognized six seniors on senior night — Tara Martin, libero Lauren Bandera, middle hitter Charlese Blair, right side Ashley Brennan, middle hitter Roisin O’Dowd and setter Claire Yohann. The six players were honored with an on-court ceremony commemorating their hard work and dedication to the team.

Seniors on the volleyball team were honored in a pregame ceremony on Oct. 29 during the Emory National Invite. (Courtesy of Tyler Rover/Team Photographer)

After only spending one season with the senior players, Dawson could not be more proud of her teammates and friends as she celebrates their accomplishments on senior night.

“It’s going to be so hard to see them go,” Dawson said. “We’ve become so close in such a short amount of time. All six of them are such great mentors and great people. While we are super sad they are not going to be with us next year, we are so excited to see where this next chapter in their life takes them.”

Head coach Jenny McDowell became the seventh coach ever in Division III volleyball to reach 800 career wins. McDowell was ecstatic to join her six seniors on the court to celebrate all of their accomplishments as volleyball players, as well as Emory students. 

Volleyball head coach Jenny McDowell earned her 800th career win during the Emory National Invite. (Courtesy of Tyler Rover/Team Photographer)

“This weekend was an amazing opportunity to celebrate our six seniors,” McDowell said. “This group has led us through an unprecedented time with COVID. Their commitment, dedication and perseverance is the foundation by which our team is 21-4 and ranked No. 1 in the south region.” 

Following the celebration the Eagles faced and never relinquished a lead to Birmingham-Southern. Taking just over an hour, the Eagles finished the game 25-12, 25-16, 25-15. Martin led with 10 terminations, and the Eagles attacked at a .344 clip en route to their eight consecutive win. 

Unfortunately the win streak snapped on Oct. 30 when the Eagles competed against the Berry College Vikings. The Vikings defeated the Eagles in straight sets 25-13, 25-17, 25-19, bolstering the Vikings record to 22-2, while the Eagles ended their regular season at 21-4. 

Falling to the Vikings was not taken lightly by the Eagles. The Eagles understand that the Vikings are an extremely well conditioned team, but are not backing down from the challenge of learning from this loss.

“This game was definitely a wake up call for us,” Dawson said. “After that match, we are going to come back and learn from it. We will start upwards on a new path in the post season.”

Berry hit over .455 in all three sets, and ended the match with a .456 attack percentage while the Eagles ended with a .109 percentage. Much of this can be attributed to Emory’s 20 attack errors. The Vikings were also extremely dominant at the net with 10 total blocks to the Eagles’ one. 

Tara Martin, freshman Lily Martin and Dawson combined for 22 of the Eagles’ 30 terminations. Bandera contributed a team high of 11 digs while Srb dished out 20 assists. 

Heading into their next competition, McDowell is optimistic about her team’s resolve.

“Although we didn’t come away with a third win on Saturday, it is a great opportunity to refocus and get back in the gym and get better,” McDowell said. “We have a very committed team and I know they will be ready for the UAA Championship and NCAA Tournament.”

The Eagles will now head to Cleveland next weekend to defend their University Athletic Association (UAA) title at the UAA Championships. The No. 2 seeded Eagles will face off against the No. 7 seeded Brandeis University Judges (Mass.) on Nov. 5 at noon at Case Western Reserve University (Ohio).