The Emerson men’s volleyball team limped into the Bobbi Brown and Steven Plofker Gym Monday morning, both figuratively and literally.
With several players missing time with injuries, the Lions entered the doubleheader against Great North Eastern Athletic Conference (GNAC) opponents Lasell and Johnson & Wales having lost six of their last seven games and sporting an 0-2 record in the conference.
Before the season began, Emerson head coach Ben Read said that his team could play well enough to host a playoff game. Emerson seized the opportunity to revive that goal.
With the score knotted at four in the fifth and deciding game against their first opponent Lasell, the lanky Connor Burton elevated for his third block assist of the match. The score would be tied again at seven, but Emerson’s Frank O’Sullivan, back after missing last week’s loss to Emmanuel, recorded blocks on two of the next three points, pushing the team total to 14.
“Our blocking was really solid, the defensive play, the positioning — it all just came together,” said captain Eric Doherty.
Lasell managed to tie the score one final time at 11 before collapsing. The Lasers committed three straight attack errors before a Nadav Swarttz spike completed the victory.
Swarttz finished with a team high 16 kills and just two errors for a game high .452 kill percentage. Emerson out-blocked the Lasers 14-6, led by freshman Nate Chivers who had a game high four.
As Doherty watched Johnson & Wales dispatch Lasell 3-0 in the second of three matches, he ruminated that Emerson could have played with more efficiency.
“It probably shouldn’t have gone to five games. We didn’t really come out with enough energy in the second or the fourth game,” said Doherty. “You always want to play as few games as possible just to save your legs.”
When the Lions’ next match against Johnson & Wales also reached a fifth game, it seemed Doherty might have foreshadowed an Emerson defeat.
For a second time the Lions found themselves in a 7-7 tie in the deciding game, and for a second time, Burton put Emerson ahead. The freshman drilled a perfect spike that whizzed untouched through the middle of the Wildcats’ defense.
And once again, Emerson’s opponent buckled. The Wildcats committed five errors from that point on, including a match-losing serve out of bounds that gave Emerson their second 15-11 victory of the day in a tie breaking game.
Emerson had initially fallen behind 6-2 in the fifth game against Johnson & Wales, prompting Read to call a time out. The coach addressed the players and told the team to refocus.
“[The message] was that ‘you deserve to be here’ and we took it to heart and stopped making mistakes and put them on their heals,” said captain Stephen Selnick. “I’m unbelievably proud of the way the team responded.”
Swarttz led Emerson with another 16 kills. Burton had a team high 18.5 points and just one error.
When the nets came down, the Lions were back at .500 in the conference, defeating both opponents 3-2 and pushing their record to 2-2 in the GNAC and 5-6 overall.
Although the box scores were stacked against Emerson, Read said the Lions asserted themselves with the rally.
“If you look at the stats for both matches, it looks like we probably should have lost. Both teams out-hit us,” said Read. “But that’s why we play five. We’re inconsistent, we’re young, we make some simple mistakes. After a mistake, we get down on ourselves; that’s how we’ve played in the past, and there hasn’t been a lot of success. We’re trying to forget about that. We definitely showed we can compete with just about anyone.”
The Lions look to maintain their newfound momentum this Monday night against Lesley, a team they beat 3-0 earlier in the season.