Emory University hosted one of the 2021 NCAA Division III Women’s Volleyball regionals from Nov. 11-13 at the Woodruff Physical Education Center. While Emory’s volleyball team was able to play at home and advance to their 11th straight regionals, the Eagles fell short to the No. 12 Berry College (Ga.).

On their way to regionals, the No. 14 Eagles dominated Southern Virginia University in three straight sets (25-17, 25-19, 25-13) in the round of 64 and followed to conquer the University of Texas at Dallas (25-20, 25-11, 22-25, 25-18) in the second round. While the Eagles were excelling in their matches, Berry was also skating by competition, defeating Transylvania University (Ky.) in the first round and Southwestern University (Texas) in the second round.  

Since 2011, Emory has had a successful history against Berry. Emory’s won 16 of their last 20 matches against Berry; in their most recent matchup on Oct. 30, though, the Eagles fell to the Vikings in three sets.  

During regionals, Berry brought the same strength from Oct. 30. The Eagles defended their chance of winning until the end, creating a brief lead during the third set. Despite the Eagles’ best efforts, the Vikings finally claimed victory, winning 25-19, 25-13, 28-26, across the three sets. Berry finished the match with a .396 hitting percentage compared to Emory’s .204 and had twice as many aces.

However, the Eagles did not leave empty-handed as junior setter Cassie Srb and senior outside hitter Tara Martin received the All-Regional Championship Team certificates out of the six awards handed to players from the participating teams. Adding to their success, Martin achieves a second consecutive selection to the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-American Third-Team. Likewise, Srb got a second consecutive Honorable Mention All-American honor recognized by the AVCA.

Sophomore outside hitter Carly Wallace had a strong performance despite the loss. With a career-high 10 kills, two service aces, six digs and a total of .400 hitting percentage. With their 28-2 record, Wallace acknowledged that Berry is one of their toughest matchups.

“They were obviously a really good team,” Wallace said. “They played very well. They played pretty good defense and obviously were swinging hard. I had a hard time with them tonight obviously.” 

But she is optimistic as her main takeaway from the season is to “get better and make sure this doesn’t happen again.” 

Freshman libero and defensive specialist Deborah Hong also impressed in her NCAA Tournament debut with 13 digs. Hong shared Wallace’s optimism for future seasons.  

“[We’ll] keep fighting through adversity like either from COVID, injuries or anything,” Hong said. “We can battle back from whatever.” 

Despite the rough night for the Eagles, the gymnasium was packed with energy from the fans, including Eagle and Viking supporters, and Emory President Gregory Fenves. Emory students did not fail to pump up the Eagles during the game as they filled the air with “Go Eagles!” chants and made the stands shake with their energetic stomps. Even before the match, Emory’s student section pretended to read the Wheel while the opposing team was introduced. 

As the Eagles look into the future and end their season with a 25-6 overall record, head coach Jenny McDowell is not making any excuses for the team’s early tournament exit. 

“[I’m] not going to use COVID as an excuse because we have certain standards by which we want to establish our program,” McDowell said. “I think we gotta get back to that and hopefully we’ll continue to really recommit ourselves.”

Emory volleyball against UT Dallas on Nov. 12 in the first round of the NCAA Division III volleyball tournament. (Ally How/Photo Editor)