The Emory community gathered in excitement and support Sept. 2 and 3 for the women’s volleyball season opener, the Emory Classic, but the real cheering in the Woodruff Physical Education Center (WoodPEC) came from the Eagles themselves.

“That’s our culture,” Head Coach Jenny McDowell said of the cheering that lasted throughout every game. “We have a special cheer for every player on the team.”

On Friday, the No. 4 Eagles beat University of St. Thomas (Minn.) 3-1 and No. 25 University of Wisconsin Oshkosh 3-0. The next day, Emory beat St. Mary’s College (Ind.) 3-0 but fell to the College of St. Benedict (Minn.) 3-2.

Junior Hannah Billings’ cheer, which consists of a rendition of “Who Let the Dogs Out” due to her nickname “Ru,” resembling the word “who,” was frequently used during the match against UW Oshkosh on Friday night. Billings, a setter for the Eagles, helped the team win five consecutive points with her serves, three of which were aces. Billings returned in the third set and served the final four points to secure a win in game two.

As the cheering continued Saturday afternoon for the team’s third and fourth games of the Emory Classic, it became evident that the Emory volleyball program recruited some key players for the Class of 2020.

Freshman outside hitter Morgan McKnight performed phenomenally at the net, with nine kills against both St. Mary’s and St. Benedict’s, and freshman libero Elyse Thompson assured that seldom would a ball hit by the opposition reach the floor, notching 19 and 20 digs in the third and fourth games, respectively.

Thompson, who is living in Longstreet-Means Hall this year with fellow freshman outside hitter Sara Carr, said that this incoming freshman class of nine players, although entering with “different traditions,” has bonded almost instantly during the two weeks they’ve been together.

“We do a lot of DUC-ing together,” Thompson said with a chuckle. “We do a lot of volleyball together; we’re doing life together.”

Thanks in large part to those freshman players, the Eagles managed to continue their win streak with another victory against St. Mary’s but fell to St. Benedict Saturday afternoon.

In the match against St. Benedict, the team had a combined 29 errors, 20 more than in the game against St. Mary’s that same day.  

“I think we were all really excited and focused,” Billings said, “but I’m not sure we as a team thought that they would bring such a fight.”

Despite the uncharacteristic loss to an unranked opponent, the Eagles are looking forward to the rest of their nascent season.

As a personal goal, Thompson referred to a team exercise in which every player at the beginning of the season was given a carabiner with a specific word written on it. Thompson’s word is “joy,” so she hopes to bring that principle to the court.

As for a team goal, Thompson said, “Our goal is to win a national championship, and this team has great potential to do that.”

“We talk about how volleyball brought us together,” McDowell said. “And we want to have fun together.”

The Eagles indeed appeared to have fun as they clinched three out of four victories to begin what is bound to be an exciting season for Emory’s volleyball team.  

The Eagles will return to the court this Friday, Sept. 9, at 8 p.m. in Thousand Oaks, Calif., to face off against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (Calif.) in the Cal Lutheran Invitational.  

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