Fall, Volleyball

Eagles Roll Past Georgia Tech, Preserve Perfect Home Record

Boston College volleyball calls the Power Gym home and in its first six home games, the Eagles’ powerful play has lived up to that name. Head coach Jason Kennedy’s squad has dropped just three sets on its home floor, and it has played with a fire and intensity that has brought pride to its fans. Sunday afternoon was no different, as BC defeated Georgia Tech three sets to one.

Clare Naughton led the way for the Eagles (12-2, 2-0 Atlantic Coast) with 18 kills, all of which came in the opening three sets. The sophomore outside hitter strung together unstoppable runs and came through in timely moments as well. Setter Jane Dejarld paved the way for much of BC’s spiking success, recording 25 assists. Freshman Jewel Strawberry also provided a spark off the bench for the Eagles in the fourth set, contributing seven kills on 10 attempts during a pivotal stretch that shifted momentum back to the Eagles’ corner.

“Jewels been good for us late in matches,” Kennedy said when discussing the decision to turn to Strawberry in the fourth set. “She really changes the rhythm of things, and I thought she did a great job coming in off the bench, bailing us out, and she found a way to win us that set.”

BC came out with high energy to start the first set. The crowd was rocking and guided the Eagles to an early 6-1 lead. GT (11-4, 0-2) fought back to bring the deficit to just three, but BC always had a response, cruising to a 25-18 victory. Naughton notched six kills in the first frame, and middle blocker Amaka Chukwujekwu also put together a dominant stretch in which she recorded four kills, a block, and a service ace.

The Yellow Jackets came out much stronger in the second set, keeping themselves in long points and forcing the Eagles to work much harder for every spike. Cat Balido locked in, however, turning a two-point deficit into a two-point lead with four consecutive putaways. The turning point of the set came after BC took a timeout down 19-17. BC rattled off eight of the next 11 points to grab a commanding two-set lead. With the set on the line, Naughton and McKenna Goss came through with pivotal kills, while another key block for Chukwujekwu solidified the victory. Balido polished off her dominant set with nine kills, benefitting from a series of digs from the BC back line.

The pendulum of momentum swung to the visitors in the third set, where GT showed that they would not lay down without a fight. A match that had seen relatively error-free play from the Eagles in the first two sets shifted in the third frame where BC committed nine attacking errors. In this set, the long points went the way of the Yellow Jackets, where BC looked less coherent on defense. GT ended the set on a 6-0 run, including two kills from Mariana Brambilla, and two service aces from Mikaila Dowd, one of which was misjudged by the BC back line, which let it drop in thinking it would land long.

With BC reeling, GT opened the fourth set with Kayla Kaiser serving a powerful ball. Kaiser’s entry balls forced three Eagles miscues, and BC fans were relieved to see her fourth service ball rocket into the net. With spikes not falling the way they were in the first two frames, BC needed some inspiration. That came in the form of Strawberry, who rattled off seven kills as BC slowly but surely worked its way back into the set.

Down 12-8, BC’s energy level flipped a switch. As Jill Strockis stepped to the service line, the crowd was on its heels, wondering if the Eagles would turn around and blow this two-set lead and have to play a decisive fifth set. Strockis and BC did not fold under the pressure, though, as the junior would go on to serve and win eight consecutive points that would prove to be the defining swing of the match. Chukwujekwu sealed GT’s fate with a final service ace to vault the Eagles to their second conference win in as many tries.

This early success is infusing excitement into an Eagles program that has not finished with a winning record since 2004. Through two games, BC is already halfway to its conference win total from a season ago. This team has shown the ability to respond to adversity by dropping just one set this weekend after losing its first two matches of the season last weekend. Unfortunately for them, the road only gets tougher from here. The Eagles will hit the road for four conference matches over the next two weekends, including a tilt with No. 9 Pittsburgh.

“We know that this is a tough conference, and every night is going to be a battle back and forth,” Kennedy said. “We just have to keep learning about ourselves. We have to keep competing, and we’re learning a little bit more of what it takes to win.”

Featured Image by Tiger Tao / Heights Staff

September 23, 2018