The sixth-ranked volleyball team hosted the Emory Invitational this weekend, losing to the No. 3 Wittenberg University (Oh.) Tigers Friday before defeating the Washington and Lee (Va.) Generals and the UMASS-Boston (Mass.) Beacons Saturday. The Eagles’ record now stands at 29-5 on the year.

“We have to come in to each match totally focused because, with our program’s success, everyone is always going to give us their best shot,” Head Coach Jenny McDowell wrote in an email to the Wheel. “Although we did not play our best, I know how much our team cares, how hard they work and how committed they are to one another.”

The Eagles lost to Wittenberg by a 3-1 margin, losing the first two sets 25-13 and 25-21, winning the third set 18-25 and losing the fourth and final set 25-23.

“It was a disappointing loss because we did not play well,” McDowell wrote. “If we played well and lose it is a completely different feeling. I know we will learn a lot from this defeat and move on and be a better team for it.”

Sophomore outside hitter Leah Jacobs echoed McDowell’s feelings that this match was both a disappointment and a learning opportunity.

“In the first two games of the match, we just did not show up to play,” Jacobs wrote in an email to the Wheel. “Thankfully a loss like this happened now rather than in the national tournament, because we still have the opportunity to learn and correct our mistakes.”

The Emory offense was led by senior co-captain middle hitter Breanah Bourque, who delivered 13 kills, making it 12 matches in a row in which she has posted double-digit terminations, and her fellow senior co-captain middle hitter Alex Duhl provided seven blocks. Sophomore outside hitter Cami Silverman contributed 10 kills and 12 digs, freshman setter Sydney Miles delivered 35 assists and freshman libero Taylor Erwin produced 25 digs.

The Eagles bounced back Saturday, with victories over both Washington and Lee and UMASS-Boston. The win over the Generals was by a 3-1 margin (25-13, 25-20, 21-25, 25-18), and the final tally against the Beacons was 3-0 (25-18, 25-16, 25-14).

“I was pleased with our two wins,” Bourque wrote in an email to the Wheel. “After losing a big match the day before, it can be hard to show up the next day with a good attitude. I think that the way we performed shows the mental strength of this team and our determination to get better and win.”

The Eagles put forth a balanced offensive attack against the Generals. Bourque led all players with 17 kills and a .630 attack percentage, and Jacobs and sophomore hitter Cat McGrath each chipped in nine kills. Three Eagles managed double digit digs, with 14 from Erwin and 12 apiece from junior libero Sarah Taub and sophomore hitter Kate Bowman.

The Eagles put up similarly impressive numbers in the second game of the afternoon. Silverman led the team with both 12 kills and 14 digs, Bourque added nine terminations, four blocks and a service ace, and Jacobs, Duhl and Miles each delivered seven kills.

“We could have easily come out on Saturday and lost two more games after such a hard loss to Wittenberg, but we made a conscious decision to put that loss behind us and move forward,” Jacobs wrote. “I am confident that we will have no slow starts from here on out, and I credit that to our ability to move forward.”

Jacobs impressed her coach with her performance Saturday.

“I thought Leah Jacobs was outstanding,” McDowell wrote. “She played a significant role for us on Saturday and all of her hard work this season paid off. She is a dynamic athlete and is becoming a great volleyball player.”

The Eagles next take to the court this weekend when they will host the UAA Championships.

“If we want to be successful, we must continue to buy into this notion of ‘Emory Volleyball,'” Jacobs wrote. “We have created a culture here in this program of high standards, a hard work ethic, selflessness and devotion to the team. If we stay true to that ideal, we will not be disappointed in the post-season.”

By Bennett Ostdiek