With a split on day two of the EMU Invitational, Eastern Mennonite's volleyball women earned one of their best starts in recent history. Coupled with a sweep on the first day, the Royals are now 3-1 on the season.
The women will look to further improve that strong start when they hit the road on Wednesday, playing a non-conference match at nearby Mary Baldwin College.
Catholic 3, EMU 0
The Royals started the day with a tall task. Literally. The Catholic squad featured what was easily the tallest lineup of the six teams at the invite, but EMU was undeterred. The women stayed with the Cardinals for much of the first set until two late runs gave CUA a 25-18 decision.
Trailing 23-20 late in set two, the Royals surged to lock up the score at 24-24. They had the score tied two more times before Catholic got back-to-back kills to steal a 28-26 win. EMU then used a huge 9-1 run in set three to lock things up at 15-15, but the Cardinals scored the final five points to win 25-19.
Sara Ritchie (Harrisonburg, Va./Turner Ashby) was the lone Royal with double figures in kills, racking up 14 in the three sets. She also had 11 digs. Katie Miller (San Antonio, Tex./Brandeis) led all players with 18 digs.
EMU 3, Salem 1
The match with Salem featured big runs until the Royals finally grabbed momentum. But the swings were evident in set one, when the teams traded massive runs early only to be tied at 8-8. The Spirits etched out to a three-point lead all the way to game point at 24-21. But Eastern Mennonite scored five unanswered, including the final two on service aces, to surge to a 26-24 win.
Set two was just as wild, only this time Salem pushed to the finish with a 6-2 run to win 25-20. The Royals took all the momentum early in set three, however, riding a 16-2 explosion to a 25-14 decision. They closed the day on another 16-2 tear to again win 25-14.
The women featured a very balanced attack in the win, led by Ritchie's 10 knockdowns. Kayla Smeltzer (Richmond, Va./Maggie L. Walker) and Janna Williams (Kenbridge, Va./Kenston Forest) each had seven kills and three others added five or more. Regan Cook (Staunton, Va./Robert E. Lee) and Alexa Weeks (Montross, Va./Washington & Lee )each had five blocks.
Miller was her usual stellar self with 21 digs. Freshman Skyler Johnson (Harrisonburg, Va./Harrisonburg) was good for 17 digs and six service aces in her first collegiate match.
Senior outside hitter Sara Ritchie was named to the EMU Invitational All-Tournament Team at the conclusion of play. She pounded out 4.50 kills per set at the invite and added 3.36 digs along with a total of five aces. Ritchie had a high of 21 kills and 14 digs in the four-set win over Goucher on Friday, and also notched a double double in each match.
Coach Jeff Tyson talks about the great start to the season by his team: