strongAlanna Grady, Beacon Staff/strong
When the seniors on the Emerson women’s volleyball team were sophomores, the team went undefeated in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC).
Now, two years later, the Lions are looking to repeat history.
Emerson took on conference rivals Lasell College and Albertus Magnus College in a GNAC tri-match Saturday. The Bobbi Brown and Steven Plofker Gym was decorated with purple and gold streamers and signs that celebrated the seniors’ last home match. Several of the player’s families came out to support the team, as the Lions’ senior day coincided with Emerson’s family weekend.
Emerson gave the crowd plenty to cheer about in the first match of the day against Lasell. Senior captain and setter Katie Bailey’s 38 assists, along with senior outside hitter Maddie Breeland’s 10 kills, helped Emerson take the first two sets. And although the Lasers eked out a win in the third, scraping by 26-24, Breeland said the Lions were not concerned.
“It’s not that we were really being less aggressive,” Breeland said. “But we were waiting for them to make mistakes instead of earning our own points.”
One set was all Lasell was able to get, however. Four blocks from junior outside hitter Kelsey Scanlon and senior middle blocker Alexa Krakowiak respectively made for strong defense in the fourth set, and in the end, the Lions claimed a 3-1 victory.
A ceremony that preceded the day’s second match against Albertus recognized the team’s five seniors as well as Scanlon for all of their volleyball accomplishments. One by one, the players — accompanied by their parents — took to the court to receive flowers as their career statistics were announced over the loudspeaker. This year’s graduating class has combined for a 92-37 record overall, with a 42-4 record in conference play and a 2009 GNAC championship.
“It’s all a blur,” said Bailey of her sophomore season, when she was named to the all-tournament team. “We just worked so hard, and it all came together for us that Saturday at home. We’re hoping that will happen again this year.”
But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. The seniors are leaders on the court who have helped to mentor the younger players.
“The seniors set a really good example,” said Jamie Morgan, a sophomore libero. “There’s so many of them, and they all really know their games. It’s an inspiration and a motivator for how we should continue to play when they’re gone.”
This year’s class is particularly close, as four of the five seniors — Bailey, Breeland, Krakowiak, and setter Jessica Drumright — live together on Mission Hill.
“I think [living together] really reinforces the importance of communication,” Krakowiak said. “You really get a sense of how everyone is both on and off the court.”
Communication was key not only among teammates, but also between players and coaches. While Albertus coach Omar Ramirez could be seen pacing up and down the side of the court, yelling at his players and, at one point, burying his face in his hands, Emerson’s first-year head coach Ben Read took a different approach: He sat along the sidelines, calmly encouraging his team with the smile never leaving his face.
“It’s had its challenges,” Read said of his first year with the program. “But I’m working with a group of dedicated student athletes. We like to have our fun, but we know how important it is to be working hard.”
On the court, it was all business, as the Lions started their match against the Falcons with an ace and kept rolling from there. With a mix-match lineup that allowed Emerson’s seniors to get a chance to play at different positions, the Lions proved they team could still be successful. Senior Megan Kaplon had six kills, and Bailey served six aces to lead Emerson to a 3-0 win. In a rare move, Bailey played libero for the final set.
The Lions, now 11-0 in conference play, will travel to Mount Ida Saturday to play their final two conferences matches of the season. Winning one of those matches will clinch the top spot in the GNAC for Read’s Lions, and secure homecourt throughout the conference tournament.
And the players were not shy to note their goals.
“We’ve been looking at winning the GNAC since the start of the season,” Bailey said. “Being able to leave a legacy would be absolutely huge.”
emEvan Sporer, sports editor of the/em emBeacon and member of the Emerson volleyball team, did not edit this article. Grady can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org./em