“I think this weekend was a defining moment for our season,” sophomore middle hitter Sydney Leimbach said of the Emory volleyball team’s Sept. 24 wins.
The Eagles traveled to Birmingham, Ala., to play two games this past weekend, winning 3-2 against Hendrix College (Ark.) and 3-0 against Birmingham-Southern College (Ala.).
The game against Hendrix was particularly momentous for the team. Emory lost to Hendrix in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Mount Berry Regional Final last year to knock them out of the tournament and end their season, so Saturday’s win was an emotional one.
But beating Hendrix was no easy feat. The Eagles played all five sets, and were down 10-2 in the fifth set before coming back to win 15-13.
The team’s size has been a significant factor in helping the Eagles clinch victories this season, and this weekend was no exception.
“We talk about the depth of our team, and we had to make substitutions throughout the whole game and everybody was ready and everybody stepped up to a super important role,” Head Coach Jenny McDowell said. “Our team is only as strong as our complete unit of 22, and that showed today.”
McDowell noted the fantastic play of both Leimbach, who has “really shined these past couple of weeks,” and of sophomore defensive specialist and libero Becky Breuer, whose serving skills were especially helpful in winning the final set against Hendrix. Breuer served six out of the 15 points that the Eagles won in set five.
The team found that this weekend they were able to witness a goal come to fruition.
“Communication has been really important to this team, and we’ve been working at that every single practice,” Breuer said. “And I think that showed this week on the court.”
The Eagles are still looking to improve their performance. McDowell and Breuer identified a shared objective for the team to achieve during the remainder of the season.
“I want us to be able to play a whole match at the highest level we can,” McDowell said. “We have to be able to maintain a high level of play over a long period of time. I’m impressed and excited about where our team is, but for our second part of the season we need to be able to go an extended time of playing great volleyball.”
Stamina is an issue that the Eagles have been working on the past month and is much of what fueled the team through all five sets against Hendrix College.
Despite this weekend’s challenge, the Eagles are clearly excelling, and are now nursing a seven-game winning streak.
The team will enter their second month of the season this weekend in Pittsburgh, Pa., as a part of the University Athletic Association (UAA) Round Robin No. 1. On Saturday, Oct. 1, the Eagles will face off against the University of Rochester (N.Y.) and will continue the weekend with games against New York University and Case Western Reserve University (Ohio).