This weekend the Eastern Michigan University volleyball team went 1-1 on its final homestand of the season. The weekend started with a loss to Ball State 3-2 (25-16, 22-25, 25-16, 23-25, 7-15) on Friday. The team’s record went to 23-8 (10-4 Mid-American Conference) after a three set win over Toledo (25-21, 26-24, 25-22) leaving the Eagles in fourth place in the MAC west.
On Saturday the Eagles honored Jenn Swartz and Joi McKenzie in their Senior Night game against the Toledo Rockets.
The Eagles opened the third set with three kills and two service aces by freshman outside hitter Paige Roback to take an early 9-4 lead and held control of the set until the close. The Eagles pressed their way to a 21-18 advantage. The Rockets cut the lead to 2 points. However, just as the Eagles opened with a performance by senior honoree McKenzie, they closed out with a kill from senior honoree Swartz and they took the set 25-22. This was her second set clinching kill of the night.
To open the match, McKenzie and her mother sang the national anthem; it was her way of pitching in when her back injury prevented her from being able to contribute the numbers.
In the second set, Swartz also Secured a set after a five point run by the Eagles gave them a 22-15 edge. They held on to that lead until a kill by Swartz closed the set at 25-21.
Early on, the Rockets came out to take an early 3-0 lead in the first set, however the Eagles quickly closed the gap. After Toledo gained the lead again, two service aces by Roback would tie the teams with nine points each.
Eastern was led by sohomore outside hitter Rachel Iaquaniello who recorded 14 kills, followed by freshmen outside hitter Erin Short with 12 kills and freshman outside hitter Roback with seven kills and five aces. Junior setter Ashley Mason added a double-double (36 assists and 16 digs).
Swartz and McKenzie, the team’s two seniors, each had a lasting impact on the team in her own way.
“They’re polar opposites,” head coach Kim Berrington said.
“(They were) very welcoming, they made me feel like a part of the family right away,” Short said.
“The seniors are very open with us and we know we can go to them about anything. They’re very good role models of the players we want to become,” Iaquaniello said.
In her four years with the Eagles, Swartz set the record for number of sets played and leads the way for the team’s blocking efforts with a .80 average per set. For Swartz, her most memorable game with the Eagles was in a matchup with Michigan State, in which the Eagles defeated the Spartans in a 3-2 upset.
“It was the first time we realized what kind of talent we had and how much of a team we can be,” Swartz said. In her departure from EMU, Swartz would like to tell her teammates to “enjoy every moment of their career.”
McKenzie’s impact was felt more off the court. In her four years with Eastern, McKenzie suffered injuries that limited her time on the floor.
“I give her a lot of credit for the work she’s put in,” Berrington said.
McKenzie’s most memorable match with the Eagles was Saturday night’s.
“Thank you for your support and for making this Senior Night one I will never forget,” McKenzie said to the team on her departure.
On Friday night the Eagles were lost to the Ball State Cardinals 3-2 in a match between the top two teams in the MAC West.
Eastern was led by Roback and Iaquaniello, who each posted a double-double of 18 kills and 18 digs. Short added 15 kills and a .538 kill percentage, while Mason led the team in assists with 64.
Next, the Eagles will travel to DeKalb, Ill., where they will take on Northern Illinois, second in the MAC West. The match is set for 6 p.m. Friday.