Volleyball team eyes strong finish as season end looms

The Eastern Michigan University women’s volleyball team is on the home stretch. It has six matches remaining in the regular season, including its final two road matches against Northern Illinois University Oct. 26 and Western Michigan University Oct. 27.

The Eagles are 14-12 and 4-6 in the Mid-American Conference, which puts them in fourth place in the MAC West Division. If the season ended today, they would clinch the final playoff spot.

One of the keys to the team’s success so far has been the play of senior outside hitter Rachel Iaquaniello, who is a finalist for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award and was named MAC West Player of the Week for the week of Oct. 14. She leads the team in kills with 423 and service aces with 25.

The Eagles are having a good year on the road. Six of the team’s seven non-tournament wins have come from away games, while at home the team has only one win in five matches.

Iaquaniello said, “On the road, we know we’re kind of invading enemy territory and we have to battle to get what we want. At home, it might be that we are sometimes a little bit too geeked to play, and we are all over the place as a result. Since we’re ending the season with four home games, that is definitely something we are looking to improve upon.”

The first of the Eagles’ final two road matches pits the team against the NIU Huskies. The two teams last faced each other Sept. 22 at the Convocation center. The Eagles won the match in straight sets. The Huskies are 15-11 (6-4 MAC) and are tied with Central Michigan University for second in the MAC West. The Huskies are beginning to struggle, however, as they have lost their last two matches.

Iaquaniello said the team’s previous win against NIU isn’t really going to have an impact on how they will be playing them this time around.

“I think it’s vital that we remember the games we let go of and the close matches we lost so we can
come out with a vengeance, being that focused and aggressive team,” Iaquaniello said.

The Huskies have two players who have proven to be somewhat of an offensive force so far this year. Outside hitter Meghan Romo is currently eighth in the MAC in kills with 324. They also have outside hitter MacKenzie Roddy, who leads the MAC in service aces with 30.

But Iaquaniello said she isn’t worried.

“As for obstacles, all the teams in the MAC have a couple of big guns, but they can’t throw anything at us that we haven’t seen before,” she said.

The Eagles’ win against Buffalo was a team affair, and Iaquaniello said against NIU that will need to continue.

“I truly believe that against NIU we need the whole team. Being a big role is so much more than what you see on the stat sheets. We always talk about hitting service zones, talking to our hitters about the defense and executing on our side of the net, which really means everyone has to be committed and involved. That being said, I think that we are most successful when we put all those pieces together and move the ball around a lot,” she said.

After NIU, the team will be traveling to Kalamazoo to take on Western. The Broncos beat the Eagles in a close five-set match Sept. 21; the only other time the two teams faced each other this year.

Iaquaniello said the team will really be looking to beat the Broncos, but it will be a challenge.

“We always see WMU as a team that is strong and consistent in every category,” Iaquaniello said.

“They have certain strengths, and we really gave them a tough war when they came to Ypsi. I think that our other opponents throughout the MAC have presented us opportunities to work on the parts of our game that need cleaning up, and this time around we will be able to execute our game plan more thoroughly than we had before. Since we lost to them at home, we’re out for revenge in Kalamazoo.”

The match at NIU starts at 8 p.m. Oct. 26, while the match against WMU starts at 7 p.m. Oct. 27.
Iaquaniello said the team is really going to be focused in its last six matches and not looking at one match until the other is behind it.

“The MAC is so competitive every weekend that we can’t skip over anyone or fast forward to the tournament,” she said. “Every match is one process goal in order to be the most successful we can be.”

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