Emerson women’s volleyball closed the curtains on its Great Northeast Athletic Conference history with a championship after defeating Johnson & Wales University in the semifinal and defending champions Rivier in the final last weekend.
A raucous crowd boosted Emerson college to a 3-0 victory in their final GNAC home game against Johnson & Wales Friday, that sent Emerson back to the finals for the second year in a row to avenge last year’s heartbreaking loss.
“The fans helped us stay intense in the game,” said sophomore Kat Rice. “We wanted to win it for them just as much as we want to win it for us.”
This was the second time the Lions went up against the JWU Wildcats this season, losing 3-1 in the first match. Emerson’s first loss to Johnson & Wales ended a 22 regular season conference game winning streak. Coach Ben Read attributed part of the Lions revenge win to home court advantage and offensive intensity.
“This reminded me of our championship atmosphere against Rivier last year, and that was a huge help,” Read said after the semi final game. “We did make more errors than the other team, but our offense being aggressive got us more positive points. That was the difference of the match.”
This led to a rematch of last year’s GNAC championship game, which Emerson lost 3-2 in front of a passionate home crowd. This time Rivier had home court advantage, but it proved to be of no use as the Lions cruised to a surprising 3-0 win.
“We really worked hard to correct those small mistakes and it really showed,” Read said. “We’re all really surprised that we beat them in three but we had that confidence to do it and to beat them.”
The Rivier crowd created a loud hostile environment that included harsh signs and made it difficult for Read to communicate with players on the court, he said.
“Fans were talking to the girls, they found their boyfriends and old high school rivals and then made signs of them,” he said of the opposing fans.
Read said the young team comprising of eight freshman came together, which made the championship run possible.
“Everyone had to play an important role, and throughout the year those roles have changed,” he said. “You never know when you need them to step up and it’s nice that we all came together and do that.”
Emerson will now face Bowdoin College, ranked number one in the New England region, in New London, Conn. on Friday in the first round of the NCAA playoffs.
Emerson will find itself in an unfamiliar conference next year, but Read is already anticipating a tougher challenge in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference.
“We are used to playing teams with one or two good players, now we’re going to deal with teams that have four or five,” Read said.