GREENVILLE, SC – The Emmaus volleyball team ended another historic season in South Carolina with a final four finish at the NCCAA Division II National Tournament.
After receiving their second bid to the tournament in as many years, the Lady Eagles were excited and eager to compete on the national stage, but knew that the competition would be fierce – and indeed it was.
On Thursday the #4 seeded Emmaus squad took on the #5 seed and Mid-East Regional Champions, Johnson University Tennessee. The Lady Royals brought a very fast paced game and a strong attack to the table, and the two teams were neck and neck in the first set, with Johnson eking out a hard fought 29-31 victory. Emmaus came storming back in the second set, as strong serving propelled them to a 25-10 victory. The Lady Royals recovered however, and the next two sets were tight, but Emmaus was able to win with scores of 25-22 and 25-21. "Once we got the nerves out of the way, I was pleased with how we played," commented Coach Pitman. "Johnson is a great team and we were pushed hard to win this match." The Lady Eagles also had to deal with adversity early, as starting defensive specialist Kendra Gordon sustained a tournament ending injury in the match. "We were very sad for Kendra, and we had to come together as a team to adjust our rotations and stick together in a difficult situation," said Coach Pitman.
Next up in pool play was the #8 seed, Randall University. The Lady Saints are a perennial contender from the Southwest Region, and this year was no exception. Randall stormed out from the start of set one, playing dominating ball for most of it. The Lady Eagles clawed back in the second half, but it wasn't enough as Randall won 22-25. "Coach Richter laid out for us what needed to happen after the first set, and we were looking forward to the response from the team," commented Coach Pitman. Emmaus did indeed respond, as the next two sets saw better ball control and error reduction by the Lady Eagles, leading to 25-12 victories in both. But the Lady Saints were determined to not go down without a fight, and a back and forth fourth set ended in a close 27-25 victory for Emmaus. "No team is weak at this tournament, and every match is a battle", said Coach Pitman. "I am very proud of us for fighting in this match, for it was a truly hard victory."
With two pool play wins, the Lady Eagles were in good position to make the semifinals, and a loss by Johnson against Bob Jones sealed their advancement. After a night of rest, Emmaus was set to take on the #1 seed and South Region Champions on their home court. "This was an exciting moment for us, and we knew we had a very strong opponent on the other side of the net," said Coach Pitman. The Lady Bruins from Bob Jones presented very strong serving and net play from the start, and while the Lady Eagles fought hard they were not able to generate any good tempo or consistency. Emmaus fell in straight sets to the eventual national champions. "We were frustrated after the match, and while we could have had some better play I reminded the team that a good team will sometimes cause us to make errors, and I was encouraged at how hard we played in a tough situation. We also talked about letting the loss go and focusing on the next task – another chance to play Maranatha in the semifinals."
As they entered what had the potential to be their final match of the season, the Lady Eagles took some time to reflect on the fall, and revisited one of their goals for the tournament – to play with joy and celebration for the Lord. "This was a high pressure and high stakes match, and it was really great to see us enter it with the right motivation. We didn't have nerves or anxiety, but were excited to do our best as a team," said Coach Pitman.
Maranatha led the season series against Emmaus 2-1, with the teams' last meeting being dominated by the Sabercats in the North Region Finals. This meeting would be a different affair however, as both teams played some great volleyball and the score was incredibly close. Maranatha was able to pull out a 3-1 victory, ending the Lady Eagles chance to continue their season (25-23, 18-25, 26-28, 25-27). "If we would have known in August that this would be the last match of the season, even with the result being a loss, I believe we would have picked this to be our road again," said Coach Pitman. "I am incredibly proud of how we ended things here in Greenville. The match was hard fought, it was nerve wracking, and it was fun. We played with joy, with confidence, and with our very best play of the season. In the end, Maranatha was the better team, but we could walk off the court knowing that we did our best and left it all out there – and that is a good feeling that will get even better as time passes."
"I am very proud of all we accomplished this season, and more importantly how we did it," said Coach Pitman. "We kept talking throughout the year about Proverbs 16:9, and prayed that God would direct us and show us what he had for us this season. We were an unlikely success story, and the odds were stacked against us from the start. We didn't have the best individual talent in the nation, but we did have one of the best teams. I am grateful to our team for finishing well and for representing Emmaus and the Lord so well on the court this fall!"
The Lady Eagles: By the Numbers
- #4 Final National Ranking
- 25-6 (.806) final record (most wins in school history), including 16-0 run to start the season
- First NCCAA Regional Championship match appearance
- Second NCCAA National Tournament appearance, final four finish
- Second consecutive MCCC Tournament Championship
- Second consecutive MCCC Regular Season Championship
- Hannah Postma
- NCCAA National Player of the Year, NCCAA/AVCA First Team All-American, NCCAA Scholar Athlete, NCCAA First Team All-Region, MCCC Most Valuable Player, MCCC First Team All-Conference
- Paige Sweeney
- NCCAA/AVCA First Team All-American, NCCAA First Team All-Region, MCCC First Team All-Conference
- Alli Hertz
- NCCAA Scholar Athlete
- Savannah Petersen
- NCCAA Scholar Athlete
- Lyndra Davis
- MCCC Second Team All-Conference
- Paulina Velderrain
- MCCC First Team All-Conference
- Coach Pitman
- NCCAA National Coach of the Year
- NCCAA Regional Coach of the Year (North Region)