LAKE ZURICH, IL – Before the Lady Eagles' first match of the season, the atmosphere in the locker room was one of pure excitement, as the women were eager to apply all that they had worked on during the pre-season. "We are a young team that is clearly passionate about volleyball. Coach Ruter and I love the enthusiasm these ladies have," commented Coach Pitman.
The first match of the day found Emmaus pitted against Grace Bible College (Wyoming, MI). In the beginning, the teams appeared to be evenly matched. However, after shaking off some initial nerves in set one, Emmaus was able to settle into a groove, coming away with a 25-17 victory in the first set. The Lady Eagles continued to fight hard, taking set two as well. Hitting their stride, the Lady Tigers established a strong middle attack and won the third set. Emmaus made a starting rotation adjustment in set four, in order to match up better with Grace's lineup – a strategy that paid off, as the Lady Eagles took the set and match with a score of 25-23. " Grace played some fantastic ball today and they were a great opponent for us to face in our first match," said Coach Pitman.
After a very short break, the second match against host school Dayspring began. "We sat on the bleachers before the match and talked about how it would be a tough test for us," said Coach Pitman. "Dayspring is a very determined team, they play great defense, and their fans are loud and passionate." Set one was all Emmaus, however, as Dayspring's errors helped the Lady Eagles cruise to a 25-8 victory. In set two, it was a different team that emerged, as Dayspring put together some long runs and took the set 23-25. Dayspring's crowd surged behind them and, although Emmaus played well in set three, they could not steal the momentum back and Dayspring emerged with a 22-25 victory.
At the break before set four, Coach Pitman opened a side door and led the team outside. "We just needed to get out of the gym. It was hot, humid, and very loud. At this point in the match we had played almost three straight hours of volleyball, and due to injuries we had been doing so with seven players. The team is well conditioned, but we were just plain tired," said Coach Pitman. In the cool, outside air the team took a moment to consider their situation and to refocus on their goal of unity with each other. "We said we would stick together in a tough spot and take the match in five sets," said Coach Pitman.
Set four found the Lady Eagles adjusting their blocking and defense strategy, which breathed some new life into the offense as well. Digging deep, Emmaus found a reserve of strength and pulled away to take the set 25-19. The team continued confident play in set five, and was able to counter a late run by Dayspring to come away with a 15-10 victory.
"Coach Ruter and I were so proud of the way this young team handled adversity today," commented Coach Pitman. "We have a lot to learn and a lot to improve on, but overall it was a great day!"
Every player made a strong contribution to the day's efforts. Captain Molly Skoglund came away with 64 receptions and 40 digs. Assistant Captain Hannah Bell led the team with 14 aces and dished up 84 assists. Alli Howard put down 24 kills and Savannah Petersen and Chelsea Smith were close behind with 22 each. Liz Heathcote led in attack percentage at 18.97% and Elizabeth Brame, filling in as middle blocker, contributed 3 blocks.
The Lady Eagles will take the upcoming week to practice hard and hopefully have all players back to full health. Emmaus returns to the court September 9th for an exhibition match with NAIA opponent Clarke University in Dubuque.