Nate Chivers and Nadav Swarttz skied into the air in perfect step with each other, slamming the ball down and denying the opposing attack at the net. With that point, the Emerson men’s volleyball team, who were riding a four-game winning streak, dispatched the Wentworth Institute of Technology Leopards in the first set of Thursday night’s matchup. And with everything going according to plan, it appeared as if Emerson was going to make it five straight.
With Swarttz and Eric Doherty raining down strikes from the wings and Chivers providing strong service, Wentworth was unable to put together any cohesive ball movement. But as the teams switched sides, so did the momentum.
Late in the second set, Emerson’s passing and serving broke down, and the Leopards took the lead when Doherty sent a ball sailing out of bounds. Everything the Lions did right early on in the match came apart. Swarttz and Doherty’s attacks grew less and less consistent, and Wentworth piled on with big blocks at the front of the net to take the second set 25-17.
The Leopards opened the third set with four straight points on setter Tyler Moriarity’s service and never looked back. They kept the Lions at arm’s length for the rest of the match, and came away with a 3-1 victory.
Emerson’s Chris Davis said his team ultimately made too many mistakes and gave the game away.
“Most of it was just our errors that we need to limit,” said the sophomore. “We do this a lot. In the first game we’ll come out strong and then, I don’t know what we do, but we get out of our heads and make mental errors.”
The Lions were hurt at times by miscommunication. A serve from Wentworth went right through the middle of the court uncontested — other times Emerson was out of position and the Leopards were able to take advantage.
Head coach Ben Read said as his team’s passing game deteriorated, so did the offense in general.
“Our passing went downhill,” Read said. “Because we weren’t passing as well, we overcompensated and tried to hit harder and get kills out of system.”
During one timeout, Read could be heard urging his team to focus and attack the court, and though the power was present, the accuracy was not. The team’s .122 attack percentage was the lowest it had been since a 3-0 loss to MIT Feb. 11.
“You can’t score a point if you hit the ball out,” Doherty said. “It’s better to swing into the court lightly than rocket it out of bounds. And that just comes with trying to do too much.”
Doherty lead the Lions’ attack with 15 kills on the night, but also committed 13 errors.
The two teams will meet for a rematch March 29. The game was Emerson’s second after returning from spring break, during which the Lions went two weeks between contests.
Davis and Doherty said the time off eased the strain of injuries on the team.
“For guys like me and Nadav who jump a lot, it’s really helpful to get a week [off from] jumping. I would definitely say it helps,” said Doherty. “Frank [O’Sullivan] has kind of had a bum shoulder for most of the season, but he swung really well today.”
In Tuesday’s matchup against Albertus Magnus, however, O’Sullivan — along with fellow Berklee College of Music student Chivers — did not play, as Berklee is currently on spring break. Setter Stephen Selnick was also unable to make the game due to extracirricular obligations. The Falcons swept the short-handed Lions three sets to none as Emerson appeared to lack its normal chemistry.
While Emerson fell to 2-4 overall in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference, Wentworth and Albertus Magnus were able to further separate themselves from the pack. Read said after powerhouses Rivier and Emmanuel, there is a glut of evenly matched teams fighting for playoffs spots.
Davis echoed these sentiments and said the team would have to rebound in conference play.
“If we lose one, we know we’re just going to be that much behind,” the visual and media arts major said. “We need to stay strong and keep winning, or else we’ll find ourselves in the hole.”