By: Caroline Flahive – Staff Writer
On the weekend of one of the biggest fights in boxing history, the women’s volleyball team struggled to knock out their first opponents of the 2017 season. But the Flyers (2-1) took home a pair of victories from the Holiday Inn Express Invitational to start their season on a high note.
The Flyers’ weekend got off to a slow start as they lost in three straight sets to Cal Poly (19-25, 26-28, 18-25) Friday afternoon. Junior Kendyll Brown led the team with three blocks (one solo and two assisted), while redshirt freshman Brooke Westbeld recorded 12 assists and one dig in her first career game.
After dropping the first set 20-25, seniors Jessica Sloan and Jane Emmenecker took hold of the second leg of Friday’s doubleheader to lead the Flyers to a 3-1 (20-25, 25-18, 25-12, 25-14) comeback victory against the Northern Illinois Huskies, who hosted the tournament. After a neck-and-neck start to the second set, the Flyers used a 4-1 run to go up by as many as eight, and then found themselves on their way to victory. Sloan, who recorded 16 kills and 10 digs, complemented Emmenecker’s 40 assists.
Coming into Saturday’s matchup against High Point with a 1-1 record, the Flyers dropped the first set of the game for the third-straight matchup. In similar fashion to their previous game, they went on to sweep High Point in the next three sets and cruised to their second victory, 3-1 (21-25, 25-18, 25-22, 25-23).
Despite winning two out of three matches this weekend, the Flyer’s failed to pick up a first set victory. Saturday’s game against High Point marked the third game in two days for the Flyers.
After a strong performance in the season opener where she recorded eight kills with only one error, senior Amber Erhahon finished the weekend with 28 kills. This weekend’s play also featured strong performances from Emmenecker, who recorded 81 assists and 7 kills over the three games.
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Despite being very early in the season, head coach Tim Horsmon is focused on how his squad will develop and produce when playoff volleyball rolls around.
“We’re going to have to get a lot better quickly,” Horsmon said. “I think by the end of the year we are going to have to be a lot better than we are right now.”
The Flyers are looking to keep the punches rolling after going 30-2 last season. The returning Atlantic 10 champions are looking to stay undefeated against A-10 opponents, when they kick off conference play Sept. 22 against Saint Louis.
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This season, the Flyers are looking to jump over a personal hurdle and get into the second round of the NCAA Tournament, after falling in the first round the past three years. Despite a successful season last year, the team knows success isn’t automatic.
“We walk into every game knowing we are going to have to play our best volleyball that day and no matter what circumstance we are in we are always going to give our best effort,” Emmenecker said.
The Flyers will need strong offensive performances from three-time A-10 Setter of the Year, senior Jane Emmenecker and support from the 2016 Libero of the Year, junior Margo Wolf in order to achieve their fourth-straight A-10 championship.
“With being a setter you kind of have to run the offense, so we are kind of taking control of the team,” Emmenecker said.
Another aspect Emmenecker had to take control of, after not having any seniors on last year’s squad, was leadership roles.
“We do a really good job of just being involved in our underclassmen’s lives and making sure they understand why we are here and what we are supposed to do.”
The Flyers will open a four-game home stand Tuesday at 7 p.m. against Ohio University. They will then host the Dayton Invitational, Sept. 1-3, where they will take on Iowa State and Pittsburgh.
Photo courtesy of Christian Cubacub/Multimedia Editor