Eagles record non-conference sweep over Bethune-Cookman
In a game that featured prominent momentum swings, the AU women’s volleyball battled to a three-set sweep of non-conference opponent Bethune-Cookman University on Friday night at Bender Arena.
The Eagles (17-5, 8-0 PL) won the first and third sets cleanly and quickly in front a crowd of over 200 fans as a part of the All-American Weekend event. AU also staged a large comeback to win a second set that ebbed and flowed with strong offense, resulting in a 25-11, 25-22 and 25-14 victory.
Head coach Barry Goldberg later stressed the importance of the team’s attacking consistency as a factor in securing the victory.
“The attacking is always a big deal in this, usually the team that attacks the ball the best is the winning team,” Goldberg said. “So today we had a good three games of attacking the ball with low errors and lots of kills, and that’s what you’re looking to do.”
The Wildcats (8-15, 5-0 MEAC) arrived from Daytona Beach, Florida. to play a series of back-to-back games in Washington, D.C. They battled Howard on Thursday night and lost 3-2 in a closely-contested match-up before traveling to AU for a game against the Eagles the next day.
After losing the first game, they responded quickly by jumping out to a 6-1 lead over the Eagles early in the second set. AU maintained the pace but struggled to respond soon after, falling behind by seven points at 16-9. With freshman setter Kennedy Etheridge serving, the Eagles went on a 10-0 run later in the set to not just close the gap, but also take the lead for good. Goldberg cited Etheridge’s serving as key to securing that second set and the win soon after.
“They hit the ball very well coming out of the gate, so then we were down, and our defense wasn’t as strong,” Goldberg said. “Then Kennedy Etheridge came in and served ten balls in a row. And you know four or five of those balls they didn’t pass the ball real well, so we had easy conversions to make kills. So that really made a big difference in game two.”
The win is AU’s ninth win in a row and the team’s first home victory after four consecutive away games. The Eagles returned to Bender after a road swing that included seven games over two weeks.
Early in the match, the Eagles survived off of playing patient and forced Bethune-Cookman terrors. AU ended with a kill percentage of .333, significantly higher than Bethune-Cookman’s .081 score. However, senior setter Monika Smidova said she noticed the team’s early issues of offensive execution and service errors as problems in the second half that they were able to identify and remedy as the match progressed.
“I feel like every time you beat a team so badly like that early on you kind of underestimate them going into the second game,” Smidova said. “We struggled a little bit on the service scene and we were not aggressive on the back end, we were not putting the ball down.”
With senior outside hitter Allison Cappellino leading the attack with 12 kills, Smidova followed suit and led the team with 34 assists, coupled with another eight digs and six kills. The Eagles committed only seven errors on the attack, compared to Bethune-Cookman’s 23 errors throughout the match. Nonetheless Goldberg said he believes much of the match was won on the back of the momentum the team acquired early and often.
“With us, you need a string of points, and Kennedy was able to supply that. And when you get those kind of runs, your team can really not be pressed that much to play that next ball. That’s the unique thing about volleyball, you need to do the small things well over and over again,” Goldberg said. “Our job is attack over, and over, and over, and over again, to press these other teams. That’s our sport.”
The Eagles now have five days of rest, their longest stretch since late September, before next taking the court against crosstown rivals George Washington on Oct. 21 in Foggy Bottom. Following that, the team, still undefeated in conference play, finishes the season with eight Patriot League games in their quest for the league title.