Asbury’s volleyball team came into their Sept. 26 match against Carlow University on a seven-match winning streak. By the end of the night, that streak had extended to eight matches and the Eagles were a perfect 4-0 in conference play. It was a clean three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh university: 25-12, 25-19, 25, 25-22.
The Eagles and head coach JP Rader had played five matches in four days before playing the Celtics. This limited the amount of preparation Rader could devote to the match against the Celtics. “[We] had to kind of take each match one at a time in terms of getting ready for [Carlow],” Rader said. “We didn’t know a great deal about them, but they’re always scrappy…they’re going to keep the ball in play and make it tough.”
Momentum swings were a reoccurring theme for the entire match. Asbury came out fast in the first game and finished the game off 25-12 before Carlow ever had a real chance to make a move.
The second game was closer, but Carlow could never seem to find a consistent attacking rhythm. It was more often than not that Carlow’s points came via mistakes by the Asbury team, either through mishits or miscommunication. After allowing the Celtics get within one point, the Eagles stepped up and brought their lead to 21-15. Senior Maddie Lewis had a team-high 15 digs on the night and her diving save that lead to freshman Ryanne Purcell scoring was one of the most memorable of the night. The game point came after Carlow wasn’t able to defend an Asbury attack and only managed to knock the ball into the net.
By game three, it was possible to see the signs of fatigue from a packed schedule taking their toll on the Eagles. They started off slow, giving up two easy points and weren’t able to take the lead for longer than a single point. Carlow was able to stretch the court and their attacks always seemed to find a wide open hole on one side of the Asbury defense. With the score at 17-19 with the advantage to the Celtics, Rader took a time out to get his team back on track
“We had to control the things that we could control,” Rader said in a post-game interview. “Our serve, our ball handling. Those are things that…we have to be spot on with.”
The game’s turning point came from Lewis. Her excellent save allowed the Eagles to attack and tie the game at 19-19. From there, Asbury took the lead and didn’t let go. The game point came after a failed Carlow spike went into the net.
Had the match gone into a fourth game, it’s impossible to tell what might have happened, but it didn’t matter in the end as Asbury’s composure was able to finish the match off before momentum could fully swing the Celtics direction.
“The last 5 points everything came together,” Rader said after the game. “We served well, we brought some balls up and we finished them.”
The Eagles’ next match comes on Oct. 4 against Hanover College in Hanover, Indiana.