After a three-year absence, the Emerson women’s volleyball team managed to make it back to the National Collegiate Athletics Association tournament following an upset over top-seeded Rivier in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference championship game.
The Lions faced Bowdoin College on Friday in the first round of the NCAA tournament and were defeated 3-0, despite a valiant effort from a young Emerson squad that includes eight freshmen. According to head coach Ben Read, the Lions had to fight off jitters throughout the match against the top ranked team in the New England region.
“We played well at times, but it is hard to play well consistently against a team as good and as big as they were,” Read said. “I think nerves got the best of us early on and at times in the match. Looking at some of the mistakes that we had, a lot of it was more of the mental side of the game.”
Sophomore Kat Rice said the magnitude of the tournament was overwhelming and the team needed to approach the game differently.
“It is the NCAA stage and you feel like you have to perform differently and in front of people,” Rice said. “I think if we went into it with more intensity, we could have come out with a win.”
The Lions will leave the GNAC with a championship and revenge against Rivier as they head into the New England Men’s and Women’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC). At the end of the season, freshman Julianna Tucker was named GNAC Rookie of the Year.
“This being our last year in the GNAC, we wanted to leave with a punch,” said Alex Lynn, a sophomore marketing communication major. “Especially being there last year when we lost in the final to Rivier on our court, so getting to do the same to them was the best feeling in the world.”
The team will be returning every player on the roster next year, and Rice said that will only help athletes as they face tougher opponents in the NEWMAC.
“Next year we are going to have a tighter bond and we are not losing anyone,” Rice said. “It will be good for us to face some tougher competition, because I think that we will play up to their level and grow better.”
Read said Emerson will struggle to win the NEWMAC next year and has to make up for several disadvantages to triumph next season.
“We are a shorter team, so in the offseason, we really have to work hard on our conditioning and getting our verticals up,” Read said. “I think we are going to be right around the middle of the pack and how well we actually do is going to depend on how much we continue to develop as a team and gel.”
However, both Rice and Lynn are eyeing a trip back to the NCAA tournament sooner rather than later.
“After winning the GNAC and getting a taste of the NCAA tournament,” Lynn said, “we want to work so hard to be a competitive team in the NEWMAC.”