Very quietly, Eastern Michigan University volleyball is having a very good season and shows no signs of slowing down. Led by Rachel Ianquaniello, the Eagles are 3-1 in a tough Mid-American Conference that will allow little room for a slip-up.
The Eagles’ remaining schedule will help separate the pretenders and contenders.
This home stand is huge for the Eagles. After a loss to Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne on Tuesday night, it could be four must-win matches for EMU.
The Eagles take on Northern Illinois and Western Michigan, two contending teams in the MAC West this weekend. It could be the difference between finishing in the upper third of the MAC or falling somewhere in the middle of the pack.
The Eagles (16-4) should hope to get as many wins out of this five-match home stand as they can, because when they get back out on the road, wins will be tough to get. With six road matches remaining in regular-season play the Eagles must beat one of the four teams that are in contention for divisional titles.
Regardless of those results, this season already represents the second-biggest turnaround in history. The 11-game turnaround thus far is second to the 1993 season when the Eagles improved by 12 wins going from 18 to 30 wins in one season.
Ianquaniello, who is second in the league in kills, has received the most individual accolades. A quick glance at the individual stats gives you a more focused picture on the Eagles as a team. Ashley Mason is third in the MAC in assists, Jenn Swartz is the MAC’s leading blocker and Haley Stein is second in the MAC in digs.
This gives the Eagles a great shot to win the West Division. The roster is a great combination of fresh talent and gritty experience. The players gel well together and really seem to excel in their roles, an X-factor you cannot put a number on. Ianquaniello is a killing machine, consistent and capable of putting up a gaudy number. Swartz has been a steady leader who really seems to do the little things right.
The competition in the MAC is tough, but I think this group of girls is tougher. Already this season they have sweated out 14 road matches in a row, went 11-3 and defeated the Big Ten’s Michigan State. The Eagles certainly have tak
EMU can win at home, and on the road, so it’s hard to see it not succeeding in divisional play. All in all this team has what it takes to take the MAC West, and I would be shocked if the Eagles fell below third at the end of the season.