Preview: Championship Within Reach for Volleyball

Friday, November 7, 2014 - page 2

The Muhlenberg volleyball team will open up the Centennial Conference playoffs tomorrow against Swarthmore in a semifinal match at Haverford. Since the two teams played a little more than two weeks ago, the Mules are familiar with their opponents. The same may not be true for the Garnet, however.

Holly Hynson Things started off poorly for Muhlenberg in that match (a 25-15 loss in the first set) and didn’t get much better. Swarthmore won 3-0 – the only time the Mules have been swept in their last 20 matches against CC foes.

“That wasn’t us,” stated senior co-captain Holly Hynson. “We didn’t play our game. We think that actually gives us an advantage, because we know what they’re going to do but they don’t know what we’re going to do.”

What Muhlenberg (24-7) will try to do is go a step farther than last year, when it reached the CC championship match for the first time since 2001. That experience could play a major factor, as neither of the two teams the Mules faced in the playoffs last year are still alive – McDaniel didn’t make the playoffs and three-time defending champion Johns Hopkins was eliminated in the first round. The top two seeds, Haverford and Swarthmore, did not qualify last year.

Nikki Dickson That makes Muhlenberg the highest seed returning from the 2013 playoffs, and since the CC went to a postseason volleyball tournament in 2000, no team has won the championship after failing to make the playoffs the previous year.

“We’ve been there before and I think that gives us an edge,” said Hynson (right). “It’s such a different atmosphere. It’s not like any regular-season match. There’s so much more energy.”

This has already been a historic season for the Mules, who set a school record with a 13-match winning streak and were 20-2 at one point, tying for the second-fastest to 20 wins in the College’s athletic history. Since then, though, they are 4-5, due in part to a beefed-up schedule. Four of the five losses (and six of Muhlenberg’s seven on the season) came to teams that have been regionally ranked this year.

“We learned from every one of those losses and practiced what we need to do to win against better teams,” noted Hynson. “The past couple of losses have shaken us, but we’ve been focusing on reminding ourselves that we really are a great team. We really did win those 24 matches. Nobody gave them to us.”

Nobody will give anything this weekend, and if the Mules do make it to the top, it will be well-earned. It will also be the culmination of a climb for a program that went 6-21 the year before the current seniors – Hynson, Nikki Dickson (left) and Julia Elkin – arrived.

“Thinking back to where were then and where we are now, it’s just amazing,” said Hynson. “Julia, Nikki and I are determined to go out with a win. We want to be the senior class to bring home a championship.”