Women’s volleyball wins annual “You Can Play” game

The+Emerson+Womens+Volleyball+Team+%28courtesy%3A+Ben+Read%29

The Emerson Women’s Volleyball Team (courtesy: Ben Read)

By Leo Kagan, Staff Writer

The women’s volleyball team dispatched the Endicott College Gulls in three sets on Thursday, earning a sixth consecutive home-court win in the annual “You Can Play” game.

The You Can Play Project, founded in 2012, aims to create positive environments for all athletes, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. Emerson’s men’s and women’s volleyball teams typically dedicate one game per season to the initiative, dressing in rainbow colors and decorating the Bobbi Brown and Steven Plofker Gym with supportive signage. 

The Lions celebrated the occasion with a comfortable victory, but senior middle-blocker Jillian Kay said the meaning of the night towered over the score. 

“[It’s about] letting everyone know they have a space in athletics,” Kay said. “I think it’s really important that we show it, and it’s awesome that we got the win because that’s just another way to represent the LGBTQ+ community.”

Read added that inclusivity is key for this event and this team. 

“We [want to] show that we’re okay with whoever you are,” he said. “You’re welcome to play. We want you to play, we want you to be yourself.”

Surrounded by a vibrant gym, the game started with a short rally that ended with a kill from sophomore outside hitter Parker Cummings, who ranks first in the NEWMAC in kills per set with 3.48. After the initial kill, however, the Lions struggled to establish dominance. A

Players were often reaching for the same ball on diving plays, the result of communication errors that plagued the team early in the set. Once everybody got on the same page, however, the game started to smooth out. Emerson ended the set on a 5-2 run, with Cummings finishing the set 25-20 with a kill. 

The Lions came out roaring in the second frame, scoring four consecutive points to open the set. The Gulls clawed back in, going blow for blow with the Lions throughout the first half of the second set. The tide turned when Kay delivered a short-range spike to the center of the Gull’s half, snapping Endicott’s three-point streak. 

From there, the Lions went on a 6-2 run, forcing the Gulls to call a timeout. Endicott never received a break from the Lions’ offensive onslaught. The Lions returned from the timeout with vigor, scoring five straight points to end the set 25-15. 

Sophomore pin hitter Amelia Combs tallied four kills through the set, as did Kay. Combs was dynamic—she dug the ball out of tough areas and applied pressure to a crumbling Gulls defense with a series of powerful attacks. Kay was effective at the front of the net, administering punishment to the Gulls with tighter, close-up spikes. She said that the team weathered the storm in the first half of the set with collaboration and high energy.

“We came out and wanted to play for each other,” Kay said. “Being loud and having fun really helped us out.”

In the final set, the Lions followed a similar pattern to the second, struggling to find a rhythm at first and then seizing control of the game. The team ended the set on an 8-0 streak with the Lions winning 25-10. 

Now 15-3 on the season, Emerson is looking toward the playoffs. Combs said the last regular-season games are key to postseason success.

“The rest of our season is [against] pretty high-ranking teams,” she said. “We’re working hard on getting to the NCAA tournament and if we win all of our next games, we have a shot at that.” 

To get to the tournament, Read believes the team must become more comfortable in pressure situations similar to those experienced tonight. 

It’s the mental part of the game we need to execute,” he said. “That pressure to serve to a zone where a weaker passer is, it’s kind of crippling at times, and today we stepped up and did a great job.”

The Lions lost the first of their final four games on Saturday afternoon against Amherst College, but Kay said the team will need to stay hungry to stay on track. 

“[We’ll] definitely take nothing for granted,” she said. “Play each opponent like they’re number one. The second you take someone for granted, that’s when they slide underneath you and they take it from you. We just need to keep playing to the best of our ability and play for each other.”