The Eastern Michigan University volleyball team made an early exit from the Mid-American Conference, losing in straight sets to the Bowling Green State University Falcons 18-25, 20-25, 18-25. The Eagles’ season ends with a 17-15 record.
The Falcons had a quick start against the Eagles. Down 5-2, the Eagles were able to tie the set on kills from senior outside hitter Rachel Iaquaniello and sophomore middle blocker Megan Crawshaw. Bowling Green’s Laura Avila gave a point away on a bad set, tying the score at 5-5.
Two errors by the Eagles gave the Falcons the lead again. Senior middle blocker Kristen Baker gave a point away on a service error.
After a Lindsey Butterfield kill for Bowling Green, Crawshaw committed an attack error, giving the Falcons another three-point lead.
The Falcons kept the lead for the rest of the set. Bowling Green’s Paige Penrod put it away with a service ace, giving them the 25-18 win. The Eagles were led offensively by Iaquaniello, who had four kills. Crawshaw added two of her own.
After the match, Iaquaniello made no bones about the fact that EMU struggled in the first set.
“I just think we didn’t execute the way we should have,” Iaquaniello said. “We were worried about their side of the net and we didn’t control ours. We struggled with the simple things.”
Junior middle blocker Paige Roback had her own things to say about the first set against Bowling Green.
“We were getting our feet under ourselves,” Roback said. “We let them get on a couple of runs while we still had the first game jitters.”
The second set was back and forth most of the way through. The score was tied 11 different times, but despite EMU’s efforts and four lead changes, they couldn’t get away from Bowling Green, taking the 25-20 loss.
The Eagles kept it close for most of the set. Ahead 18-17 after a Roback kill, the Falcons came right back. Two kills from Penrod and an attack error by Iaquaniello gave the Falcons a 20-18 lead. Baker had a kill late in the set, but it was too little too late.
Iaquaniello had four more kills in the second set, with Roback adding two of her own. Junior outside hitter Erin Short had a kill as well.
Despite the closer score, Iaquaniello was still not pleased with the loss in the second set.
“We knew we weren’t being ourselves in the first set,” she said. “So we tried to get a little bit of confidence and decisiveness.
However, we still did not make the plays we should have made.”
Roback was a little more optimistic about the way the second set turned out.
“We settled in and started using our game plan,” she said. “And [we] were playing our game and we were all a little more comfortable on the court and with what BG was doing and trying to do.”
The third set looked just like the first one did. Every time the Eagles attempted to make a comeback, the Falcons snuffed them out. Iaquaniello put the Eagles up 7-6, a lead which would turn out to be the final lead they would hold in the match.
Bowling Green’s Leah Shaw tied the score at 7-7 and then put them ahead for good on a service ace. Two consecutive attack errors from Iaquaniello did not help matters. Short and Roback tried valiantly to put the Eagles back in it, scoring the Eagles’ next five points, but it was all for naught. Bowling Green’s Penrod put the nail in the coffin , scoring the team’s final kill and knocking the Eagles out of the playoffs by a score of 25-18.
Iaquaniello added two more kills, for 10 on the match and a season total of 554. She stands alone atop the MAC standings for kills, and it is unlikely that her total will be surpassed by the end of the weekend. In second was Penrod with 453, and it was unlikely that she would put up 100 kills in the remaining two matches.
Iaquaniello was forthright when it came to her thoughts on the loss.
“Quite honestly, we did not do the little things, which includes passing and communicating,” she said. “We had the desire to win but nothing was clicking and it was pretty heartbreaking that we couldn’t get on the same page in the time frame we were allotted.”
Roback didn’t hold anything back either.
“BG made a statement and we didnt respond,” she said. “There is a reason why they were ranked No. 2 in the MAC, and they wanted to prove it.”
Roback also made a point to praise the seniors (Iaquaniello, Baker and setter Kaitlyn Vincek) who were playing in their final game as Eagles and dedicated the playoff match to them.
“It is for them and all of the time that they have put in over the past four years, not about who played the best for us,” Roback said.
This game marked the end of the year for the Eagles. Roback had a great deal to say about how she thinks the season turned out.
“Now that the season is over, looking back over the year, we had some good times and bad times,” Roback said. “But I think as a team we became mentally tougher and learned a lot about the game and what it takes every night to win … Every win and loss was a learning experience and put forth unto the next game.”
Iaquaniello also added her parting words for the season.
“I think we struggled at times, we were inconsistent and had some miscommunication,” Iaquaniello said. “But we always fought to overcome, and sometimes we were successful. It was a hard year in the MAC West.”