Volleyball looks for fresh start in MAC

Eastern Michigan finds a rare time to celebrate against Michigan on Sept. 9.

Eastern Michigan’s volleyball team has struggled this season, there’s no way around it. The team is 1-13, and its two seniors have nursed injuries.

Coach Kim Berrington said seniors Kim Jarzynka (knee) and Victoria Randolph (hand) will not play in the Mid-American Conference opener against Central Michigan at 7 p.m. Friday at the Convocation Center.

Jarzynka injured her knee this past weekend and a rib in a tournament two weeks ago, Berrington said. Randolph hasn’t played all season.

“We miss their leadership on the court,” said Berrington, who’s in her 14th season as Eastern’s coach. “We have some talented young players. We just haven’t been able to get over the hump.”

The injuries have turned an already young roster even younger. The probable starters for Friday’s match are one junior, four sophomores and two freshmen.

“Freshmen can play, but we really need seniors to win,” Berrington said. “We don’t have that right now.”

One freshman who’s been particularly affective is outside hitter Rachel Iaquaniello. She leads the team with 162 kills and is one of three players who’ve started every match. The others are junior Jennifer Swartz and sophomore Ashley Mason.

Berrington said an advantage of having such a young team is the valuable experience it gains now for use in future seasons – experience in making on-court adjustments, playing more consistently and learning to win.

Despite the slow start and close losses (14 games by three points or fewer), Berrington said she hasn’t noticed any sense of discouragement.

“I think they’ve come in each day prepared to practice,” she said. “I think the effort and attitude has been really good. It’s been a really good environment and culture in the gym.”

Berrington said part of the reason for the close losses is because her team has had a tendency to focus on the score and not remain competitive until the end. Her team has played all but one match on the road. The lone was a 3-0 defeat by nationally ranked Michigan. She said playing at home “definitely helps.”

CMU is 7-3 and in second place, behind Toledo, in the MAC West.

“It’d be nice to get off to a nice start,” Berrington said.

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