New season, NEWMAC: Volleyball opens up fall play

by Matt Case / Beacon Staff • September 22, 2015

Women’s volleyball is focusing on ball control this season.
Women’s volleyball is focusing on ball control this season.

The women’s volleyball team recently opened up New England Men’s and Women’s Athletic Conference play with a loss to Wellesley College last week, and is now preparing for a matchup against Springfield College on Saturday, Sept. 26.

Emerson enters the game with a 6-5 overall record. Junior middle blocker Jules Augustine leads the team with 94.5 points, while sophomore defensive specialist Sam Harton ranks fourth in the conference in digs. The Lions are also 4-1 at home heading into the match at Bobbi Brown and Steven Plofker Gym.

Springfield, ranked third in the preseason poll, is 10-2 overall with nine of their 10 victories having come in straight sets. They lead the NEWMAC with a .278 hitting percentage and 13 kills per set. 

Much of the Pride’s early success comes from two powerhouse players: junior middle blocker Lauren Holt, and senior right side hitter Kelsey McGayhey, who rank third and sixth in the NEWMAC Conference in points and combined have accounted for 40 percent of the team’s total kills. 

Holt and McGayhey's roles on the front line has Emerson head coach Ben Read focusing his team on ball control. 

“That’s going to help us be more competitive on our side of the net,” Read said. 

The Lions coach also hopes his team’s strength in their serve can minimize the Pride’s front-three attack. 

“We want to take teams out of their offense by serving extremely tough,” He said. “If you can worry about just one hitter, you can center your defense around them instead of having to worry about three. That’s going to give us the best chance of competing with them.”

Emerson junior outside hitter and marketing communication major Elizabeth Reid said she knows this match will be a difficult one, but believes her team can put up a fight.

“They’re going to bring it on every point. They’re not going to let the ball hit the floor easily,” Reid said. “They’re most definitely a team we can play with, but there’s not a lot of room for unforced errors.”

Reid said this contest also comes down to the matchups. 

“They definitely have some [players] over 6 [feet tall], and we do as well, so we’re going to put those girls against each other to try and get a block-up,” Reid said. “What we can’t do is have no block-up and just [let Springfield] be able to hit [the]10-foot line and kill us.” 

In their first conference match of the season, Emerson struggled in their straight set loss to Wellesley College ranked fifth in the preseason poll: 25-14, 25-12, 25-21. The Lions committed 22 errors and allowed 33 kills.

“It wasn’t anyone in particular, it was just a combination of things,” Read said. “Someone makes a mistake, [then] someone else does, and we start getting ourselves in a hole, and instead of just playing our game we might have been trying too hard and playing beyond what we’re capable of.” 

Springfield beat Emerson in straight sets, but 2013 brought a more competitive meeting that ended 26-24, 25-19, 25-21 in favor of the Pride. 

“We were right there,” Read said. “I think we surprised them a bit, but maybe they’re overlooking us [this year] and planning for someone ranked higher in our league.”

Read said he believes his squad has a better chance this year of beating the Pride, based on the teams they have already played.

“We’ve played a much more challenging schedule in the beginning of the year than we have in previous years, to try to prepare us more for the tough NEWMAC opponents,” Read said. “We’re learning more about ourselves playing these tougher teams, and I hope we’ll be more prepared approaching these NEWMAC games.”