MILWAUKEE, WI – The Lady Eagles came home with a 3-0 record after their first road matches of the 2018 campaign.
Emmaus took on host Mount Mary University (NCAA DIII) on Friday evening, and the Blue Angels were eager to win on their home floor. The Lady Eagles arrived later than planned due to traffic, and found a hard time generating any momentum in the first set. Strong defense by the Blue Angels and hitting errors by Emmaus led to Mount Mary taking a 19-13 lead, until Emmaus subbed in Emma Reibling. Sparked by her energy on the court, the Lady Eagles found some inspiration and fought back to knot the score at 23. Emmaus then found two aggressive kills from Nicole Gordon and Paige Sweeney, and a Blue Angels error ended the set (26-24).
The rest of the match was all Emmaus, as the Lady Eagles resumed their usual accurate attack, hitting .455 in set two and .226 in set three to close out the match (25-6, 25-10). Paulina Velderrain and Nicole Gordon led the attack with 8 kills each, and Hannah Postma had 27 assists.
"I was pleased at our turnaround after a terrible first set," commented Coach Pitman. "We learned very quickly today the impact of not being fully mentally prepared to play and letting our external circumstances control us. Mount Mary is a much improved team over last season and I loved the enthusiasm and effort they put forth tonight as well."
Saturday saw Emmaus take on NCCAA opponent Grace University (Wyoming, MI) in the first match of the day. The Lady Tigers were a nationally ranked team last season, and are traditionally a contender in the Mid-East Region. Grace's large aggressive attack stormed out of the gate in the first set, setting the Lady Eagles on their heels. Emmaus quickly found themselves behind by a score of 13-2, as the Lady Tigers were relentless in their pressure. The Lady Eagles were able to regain some composure, closing the gap to 10-14, but untimely errors allowed Grace to pull away and take the set (18-25).
Set two found both teams in their groove, and it was a tight back and forth affair with no more than a four point lead by either team. The set went to the wire, with Emmaus taking a 27-25 victory.
Sets three and four were similar in fashion, as the Lady Eagles made some adjustments and found their offensive grooves and were able to seal the match. Emmaus won each set by a score of 25-18.
"This was a fun match against a very worthy opponent," said Coach Pitman. "Grace was well prepared to play us and executed their strategy very well. Although set one was rough, I credit Grace for forcing us to error and creating strong momentum on their side. I was pleased with our ladies' response – we were frustrated but we did not get down or struggle with unity. We made the proper adjustments and stuck to executing our game plan well, and it paid off in the end. "
Emmaus then finished the doubleheader with Mount Mary. The Lady Eagles were able to control pacing much better than the previous day, and although the Blue Angels fought hard again Emmaus pulled away in each set to take the match (25-19, 25-15, 25-17). Paige Sweeney again led with 11 kills, with Paulina Velderrain contributing 10.
"This was a great weekend of play for us, and we are continuing to learn and grow, which is ultimately more important than the results," said Coach Pitman. "I am very proud of the ladies, as I saw them push through mentally even when things were hard, and they stuck to our game plan even when we didn't feel like we were doing well. We improved our hitting percentage in each set, and we fought for each point. It wasn't always pretty volleyball, but we played with tenacity and resilience, and that is great to see from the bench."
The Lady Eagles now turn their sights to the only official match this week, and it will be another hard test. Emmaus travels to Watertown, Wisconsin on Tuesday (Sept. 11) to face the defending NCCAA DII National Champions - Maranatha Baptist University. First serve is set for 7:00 pm.