By MIKEY BARNES
For the first time in the program’s near 40-year history, the University of Mary Washington volleyball team defeated a nationally ranked opponent. Saturday, Sept. 12, at the ASICS/Juniata Classic is where head coach Matt Troy and the UMW volleyball team made history.
This season is one for the history books for the Eagles. The week of Sept. 8, after a 4-1 start to the season, the team received votes in the first Division III national poll by the American Volleyball Coaches Association of the season. It was the first time the Eagles had received votes since 1992, when the team advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
This good fortune has continued, as for the Sept. 15 poll, the second of the year, UMW received 23 total votes, 20 more than the week prior. When asked how it felt to receive so many votes, sophomore libero Jenna Yost said, “It is so cool.
Everything we have worked hard for is finally paying off. Nobody sees the hours we put in at the gym, on the track, or weight lifting, there’s so much behind the scenes and it is all paying off.”
Yost has been a real catalyst for the success of the Eagles volleyball program. She was named on the all-tournament team due to her performance at the ASICS/Juniata Classic.
During the tournament, UMW was 2-2 with four very impressive performances. In the opening game of the tournament, the Eagles took on the then 4-2 Stevens Institute of Technology.
The Eagles opened up the match with a quick 25-19 victory in the first set.
Stevens tied things up, grabbing 25 points, to the UMW 22. The Eagles grabbed the final two sets with scores of 25-22 and 25-23 respectively. Freshman Leslie Walters led UMW with 11 kills in that game, followed by sophomore Dani Fiore, who finished with 10. Junior Emma Olson led the game with 35 assists and Yost led the team in digs, with 21.
In the second game, however, success was not obtained by UMW when taking on then 16th ranked Clarkson University. The Eagles won the opening set in exciting fashion with a score of 26-24. The Clarkson Golden Knights bounced back as they won the three remaining sets by scores of 25-20, 25-23 and 25-15 respectively. Walters and Fiore switched in kills total to lead the Eagles once again. Yost led the way with 22 digs and Olson again led the team in assists, with 24.
At 12 p.m. against Mount Union the Eagles made history. The Eagles won the opening set by a score of 26-24 to get things going. Mount Union then took the second set by a wider margin with a score of 25-12 to tie things up at one set apiece. UMW seemed to be motivated by the loss of that set and won the remaining two sets by scores of 25-19 and 25-20 to grab the victory for the program three sets to one.
Walters once again led the game with an impressive 20 kills, followed by sophomore Rachel Hendricks with nine. Olson continued to lead the way in assists as she herself had 44, which were seven more than the entire Mount Union team. Yost continued her impressive performance with game high 26 kills.
When asked how it felt to upset the No. 18 team in the country, Yost responded with, “It felt great, we put in a lot of hard work in practice and film and just studying teams like that. We set up our defense just to combat their offense and it feels great work it to have worked out in the end.”
Yost and coach Troy shared similar excitement for the programs first victory over a ranked opponent.
“I was very excited for the team because they have worked so hard for these past two years to get our program to this level,” Troy said. “Now the challenge is to maintain the consistency needed to compete with the top tier programs.”
Yost wanted to give a lot of credit from the team’s victory to coach Troy, “I want to shout-out coach. He does a lot of scouting, he does everything….it and him have a lot do with our recent success.”
In the Eagles’ final game of the tournament, they went up against then 6th ranked Juniata College and the host of the tournament. UMW continued their success as they grabbed an early set victory with a score of 25-23. Juniata did not wait long to bounce back; they won the three remaining sets in a dominant manner with scores of 15-25, 21- 25 and 14-25. Olson led UMW in the game with 34 assists, Yost with 17 digs and Waters who had 15 kills.
The winning continued for the volleyball as team improved to 8-3 on the season after a 3-0 victory over Catholic University of Sept. 16. The Eagle’s grabbed a 2-0 lead in a quick and rather easy fashion, with set wins of 25-12 and 25-18 respectively. The Eagles won the final set in extras with a score of 26-24 after storming back from trailing 24-21.
The team will be back in action Saturday, Sept. 19, as they will face off in a double header at Stevenson University. The opening game for UMW will be against Johns Hopkins University and then will take on the host, the Stevenson Mustangs at 3 Yost, Troy and the fellow UMW volleyball players will look to continue their success, as they are eager to climb in the rankings.
“Thank you everyone for coming out, keep it going, it’s get us hype.”