After paying tribute to the scoreboard - there is no American flag in the Piano Row gym, so a digital representation of our Nation's colors is generated in black and gold on the scoreboard - the Emerson women's volleyball team set off to work against the UMass Boston Beacons.
The Lions were coming off two tough losses to Newbury College and Tufts University and were anticipating the chance to get their record back to .500. In game one, Emerson came out swinging and put the pressure on the Beacons early.
But the Lions were missing a little something extra to put them over the top. Perhaps that missing ingredient was two of their starters. Senior Co-Captain Kelly Gloor and sophomore Janna Tonahill missed a practice because of a power outage in their apartment and sat out the first game. That meant the Lions were without two of their leaders and impact players during game 1.
UMass took advantage and came back strong. The Beacons surged ahead and did not look back, taking game one.
Head Coach Ann Miklus said the absence of the two players did not have an effect on the team.
"That had nothing to do with it," she said. "We lost because we made mental errors.
That's really why we've been losing."
But as soon as Tonahill and Gloor were let back onto the floor, both made their presence felt, as the tides turned for the Lions in game 2. Emerson returned the favor to UMass, seizing the lead and game 2 from the Beacons.
The rest of the match, however, was a wash. Even at full strength, the Lions' newfound momentum shifted back to UMass in game 3. The Beacons' Kate White and Megan MacAuley gave UMass excellent contributions. UMass was also aided by some questionable calls. At times, it looked like UMass was getting a free pass to play bombardment, carrying and throwing the ball to the other side. In any case, the Beacons took games 3 and 4 and the match.
After the match, Miklus's message to her team was simple.
"What killed us tonight was our mental game. We need to find a way to win."
The loss was the Lions' third in a row. To combat the team's recent struggles, Miklus has changed the kind of defense they play, switching from a perimeter style in favor of a rotational defense. In a perimeter defense, the four players not assigned to the block protect the rest of the court.
In a rotational defense, however, the back row defenders and the off-blocker move to either side of the court to cover shots. At the same time, one player stays in the middle to guard against tips and off-speed shots aimed at the center of the court.
"I think it's a better defense cause it's more definite," Miklus said.
Senior Co-Captain Alex Porteshawver said inconsistency, more than anything else, plagued the team.
"We're working on our defense, but we have lapses," she said. "That's something we need to work on."
Miklus agreed but said she looked forward to the next time the two teams play.
"We get up and then we let teams back in," she said. "We'll come back and get 'em on our way to winning the conference."