Volleyball loses to Miami, still in playoff contention

The Eastern Michigan University women’s volleyball team lost their second consecutive home game Oct. 13 in a tough straight set defeat (20-25, 26-28, 31-33) to the Miami Redhawks of Ohio. With the loss, the Eagles stand at 13-11 for the season and 3-5 in the Mid-American Conference. The team is currently in fourth place in the MAC West and if the season ended today, they would earn a playoff spot.

The Eagles kept it close in the first set. There were 13 lead changes, but after Natalie Folk’s service error, the Redhawks ran away with the set, scoring six straight points on the way to a 25-20 victory over the Eagles. EMU junior outside hitter Erin Short led the team with four kills, but the story of the set was the nine errors committed by the Eagles.

“I definitely think we didn’t play the way that we can as a whole,” Eagle senior outside hitter Rachel Iaquaniello said. “We weren’t communicating very effectively between points like we had been at the beginning of the [Bowling Green] match, and we obviously didn’t play the match the way we had planned.”

Senior middle blocker Kristen Baker said, “We played just average against the team. I don’t know if that is because we knew that they were 0-7 coming into the game or what it was, but we definitely were not there to compete like we know how to.”

The second set was closer than the first. Baker and redshirt junior setter Kim Hildreth earned two quick points, giving EMU a 2-0 lead. The Eagles held the lead for most of the set, but errors again brought the Redhawks back in it.

Iaquaniello had two key kills to give the Eagles a 25-24 lead late in the set, but the Redhawks came right back. Iaquaniello scored another kill to tie the match at 26, but that would prove to be the last point the Eagles would score that set. After Redhawk Lisa Treadway’s kill, her teammate Christina Menche won the set on a service ace, bringing the score to 28-26. Iaquaniello led the Eagles with seven kills in the set.

The third set was a shootout. Errors on both sides kept both teams in the game, but another Redhawk service ace, this time from Madison Hardy, put the match away by a score of 33-31. Short led the team with seven kills, bringing her match total to 13. Iaquaniello had 10 for the match, bringing her season total to a conference best 383.

The team’s struggles during the last two matches did not go unnoticed.

“Something that we talked about as a team was that one of the middles from Miami was giving us trouble throwing some offspeed shots,” Iaquaniello said. “We are usually ready for middles to be really aggressive, and as a result we were really dug in on defense instead of ready to fly around. We also struggled in different areas at different points in each set. Sometimes we struggled to side out, and other times we struggled to pass.”

The Eagles will be heading back on the road for two matches starting Oct. 19 against Akron.

“We’re putting this weekend behind us and focusing on and preparing for this upcoming weekend,” sophomore middle blocker Megan Crawshaw said.

Iaquaniello said at this week’s practice it felt like everyone was hungry for a win.

“We know last weekend was a halfway point for our MAC season, and we want to make competitive changes with each other at practice so that we can start off the second half of the season the right way. We really, really want and need to win the war this weekend,” she said.

The Eagles are currently in fourth place in the MAC West with eight matches to go. The team is focused on winning games and holding their playoff spot.

“We need to be focused and committed 100 percent throughout the next four weeks,” Baker said. “We have to find that passion and competitive attitude to help us win. We have a lot of talent on this team, we just need to bring it out for the next eight games and never let it go away.”

Iaquaniello said their MAC matches are always close and competitive, and the team knows the standings could change quickly.

“Right now we are on the bottom half of the MAC overall, and we want to be the ones to rise up, instigate that change, and have an outstanding second half of the season,” she said. “It all starts in practice, so we’re really going to push each other to be more competitive in the gym. We are really, really hungry for the MAC tournament, so we’re going to be cohesively aggressive from here on out.”

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