The Eastern Michigan University women’s volleyball team had their ups and downs during the season, but closed with an 18-15 record (8-8 Mid-American Conference).
Joining the Eagles’ team introduced Sierra Reed, number 10, not only to coaches and teammates but also to “a huge family that [she] had not only on the court, but [also] off the court.”
“I think Eastern has lived up to my expectations and went beyond them, too,” Reed said.
Those expectations began when the Eagles crushed their opponents in their first few games together at the Memphis Invitational Aug. 24-25 in Memphis, Tenn. EMU competed against the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, Southern Illinois University, Austin Peay State University and University of Memphis.
EMU went on to compete in the Illinois-Chicago Tournament Aug. 31 to Sept. 1, where they lost the first game against Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne in three sets and won the last two games against University of Texas at Arlington and University of Illinois-Chicago. These two wins launched a six game winning streak; the longest streak the team had throughout the season.
The Eagles followed that tournament with four wins at the North Texas Tournament in Denton, Texas. Reed found this tournament to be the most fun.
“The environment was so loud and crazy that it had an effect on the match and led us to be loud and crazy as well,” Reed said. “Those are my favorite type of matches.”
The winning streak ended with a string of five losses. EMU was hindered by Oakland University Sept. 11, games at the Michigan Tournament Sept. 14-15 and a home game against Western Michigan University Sept. 21. The streak was broken when the Eagles played on their home court against Northern Illinois University Sept. 22.
Although Reed led the team defensively against the University of Michigan in the tournament, she believes that was her worst game this season.
“Nothing was going right with my passing, serving or defense,” Reed said. “I just couldn’t get out of my slump.”
The highlight of the season for Reed was when the Eagles beat Ball State University in four sets Oct. 6 in Muncie, Ind. Senior outside hitter Rachel Iaquaniello led the team with 21 kills with senior middle blocker Kristen Baker and junior outside hitter Erin Short posting 14 kills each.
Reed loved beating BSU with the support of her family and friends from the area in the crowd. This was her favorite game, but also the lowest point of her season. Reed suffered a concussion causing her to miss practices.
“There was nothing I could do about it though and that’s what made it such a low point,” Reed said.
Even though the Eagles lost their home game against Bowling Green State University Oct. 12, it stood out the most to sophomore middle blocker Megan Crawshaw.
“We were the underdogs and took them to five [sets],” Crawshaw said.
Iaquaniello found that playing NIU at DeKalb, Ill was one of the most fun matches of the season. She posted a total of 18 kills in the match. Redshirt junior setter Kim Hildreth and freshman setter Alyssa Davis split the duties and had 17 and 27 assists, respectively. Iaquaniello also led defensively, attaining 15 digs with Reed only one dig behind her.
“It was a game where we had to make adjustments, and we found success doing so,” Iaquaniello said. “Also, [redshirt freshman] Kelsey Jones blocked out of her mind and that was super fun.”
The Eagles welcomed Central Michigan University Nov. 1 and Kent
State University Nov. 3 at the Convocation Center and demolished both teams in three straight sets. They posted a .267 attack percentage against CMU and .350 against Kent State. Davis collected her then match high of 39 assists.
“At that point of the season we finally had a weekend where we realized how good we were and took advantage of that,” Reed said.
Their regular season drew to a close as the Eagles hosted the
University of Toledo Nov. 10 for EMU Senior Night. This is one of the most memorable matches for Iaquaniello, especially because it was her last match on the EMU home court.
“After the last point, the people on the court came in for a big group hug, and I didn’t want to ever let them go,” Iaquaniello said.
Only five days after that match, Iaquaniello received yet another MAC acknowledgement. She was named, for the third time, to the All-MAC First Team. She has been a huge team player for the Eagles, receiving various achievements throughout the season. Iaquaniello has even become one of the most decorated players in EMU history.
Iaquaniello stood out to Reed. It wasn’t because she was well decorated; it was because of her personality. Iaquaniello didn’t use her accomplishments to boost her ego, she did it because she wore “that green jersey and represents the Eagles.”
“Watching her in practice and matches you could tell there was not a second that went by that she wasn’t giving her absolute best on the court,” Reed said.
The season came to a close as the Eagles lost to No. 2 seed Bowling Green State University in the MAC quarterfinals Nov. 16. Both Iaquaniello and Reed believed the team was prepared, but didn’t respond properly to BGSU.
“We were unable to follow the game plan and that was not the way we wanted to end the season,” Reed said.
As Iaquaniello leaves the team, she awaits the senior year of Reed and freshman Corynne Smith. Reed found her place as libero as a freshman but “she definitely did not play like a freshman.” Both women play to levels that blow Iaquaniello’s mind.
Without stopping there, Iaquaniello highlighted the performances of many of her teammates including Crawshaw, and seniors Baker and Kaitlyn Vincek.
Although this season is now over, the Eagles are preparing for 2013 to arrive. The volleyball team and head coach Kim Berrington have announced the signing of Devon Murray, a middle blocker/outside hitter from Shelby, Ohio.
The team has also started developing specific goals. Reed grieves the loss of the three seniors but embraces the chance for other players to step up as leaders on the court.
“I think when our upperclassman and underclassman put all of our experience together and goals, then we could be a very dangerous team next year,” Reed said. “I have high hopes for the future.”