strongChris Eyer, Beacon Staff/strong
When Katie Bailey was introduced first for the Emerson women’s volleyball starting lineup, she hesitated for a second, then stutter-stepped. The announcer dragged out the vowels of her name and her hometown.
“It was a really long introduction,” said Bailey, Emerson’s senior captain. “Normally they just say, ‘Number 17, Katie Bailey.’ I wasn’t ready, so it was awkward for a second.”
After that hiccup, however, the rest of the night went according to plan. Bailey and the top-seeded Lions opened the first round of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) championship with a 3-0 sweep of eighth-seeded Johnson and Wales University.
Emerson started the match with hard hits from its front liners Megan Kaplon, Madeleine Breeland, and Alexa Krakowiak. After Kaplon sent a shot down the middle of the court into empty space to put the score at 7-1, the Wildcats called their first time out.
Johnson and Wales came back from the huddle just as disorganized as before. The team committed hitting errors, misjudged balls, and lost a point to a net infraction. Meanwhile, Bailey continued to set up Kaplon and Breeland for big hits on the pins. Kaplon finished with a game-high 13 kills, Breeland with 11.
“What makes our team more effective is that we don’t have one major hitter: We have several good hitters, so the other team has to work harder to split the block,” said Kelsey Scanlon, an outside hitter. “Our outsides had a field day.”
The Lions took the first game 25-15, with the final point courtesy of Kaplon. The senior came in on the left side and smashed a ball the length of the net into the top right corner.
[caption id=attachment_3813899 align=aligncenter width=267 caption=Breeland had 11 kills and five assists. Katie Lohman/Beacon Correspondent]a href=http://berkeleybeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/IMG_3569.jpgimg class=size-full wp-image-3813899 title=IMG_3569 src=http://berkeleybeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/IMG_3569.jpg alt= width=267 height=400 //a[/caption]
Johnson and Wales came out hot the second game but were quickly derailed by a service error. A Jamie Morgan ace switched the momentum in the Lions’ favor and the home team went on a 12-4 run. Kaplon and Breeland continued to swing well, whereas the Wildcats seemed caught off guard at times. Their attacks were easily defended and many of their passes were off balance.
Head coach Benjamin Read said the team game-planned for the Wildcats’ defense and were able to take advantage of their weaknesses.
“We knew what kind of defense they were going to be in,” said Read. “We knew that the middle of the court would be vulnerable.”
The win was Read’s first playoff victory with the Lions.
Bailey said the team learned the defense and studied finding the open spots beforehand in practice.
“I thought the team served really well,” she added. “If you can’t get a good first pass, then you can’t get a good hit.”
Emerson got off to a sluggish start in the third game, but eventually found its groove. When the rotation found Kaplon in back, Bailey went to the hot-hand in Scanlon for great results. Scanlon recorded four kills in the third game, finishing with 11 overall.
“Katie knows if someone’s doing well and scoring, she’s going to keep going to that person,” Read said. “It’s the mindset of ‘we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing until you can stop us.’”
Bailey recorded her second highest total of the season with 39 assists and covered a lot of ground on defense. She even recorded a kill of her own — a one-handed tip with her back to the net.
“Volleyball is a sport of chaos,” Bailey said. “You have to react and be on your feet. It gets a little tiring, but that’s what you sign up for. With the adrenaline and the excitement of winning, you don’t feel it at all.”
Playoff action will continue for Emerson tonight, when it hosts the Simmons Sharks in the GNAC semifinals.
emEvan Sporer, sports editor of the/em emBeacon and member of the Emerson volleyball team, did not edit this article. Eyer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter /emem@chriseyer./em