Fall, Volleyball

Louisville Hands Eagles Fifth Loss in a Row, Conference Slide Continues

Two Fridays ago, Boston College volleyball went to Louisville, Ky. and stole the first set from the host and then-No. 22 Cardinals before being swept in the final three for the first loss of what became a four-game losing streak. On Friday night, the Eagles, desperately looking to find any conference success, won the second set in the rematch against an inconsistent as of late Louisville side, but were dealt identical 25-20 losses in the final two frames for a disappointing 3-1 loss.

After being blitzed in the opening frame, a 25-15 setback, the Eagles (13-14, 3-12 Atlantic Coast) responded with their first set win since the third set of a Oct. 31 loss against Syracuse. They went on to play the Cardinals (20-7, 13-3) close the rest of the way, narrowly trailing, 14-13, in the third and even leading, 17-14, in the fourth and the final set. Jason Kennedy’s bunch couldn’t force overtime in the latter, though, as Louisville went on a 5-0 run to force a timeout, then escaped Power Gym with a win that continued their seesaw second half of the season—one that has featured alternating wins and losses and a fall from the AVCA Coaches Poll.

BC, meanwhile, would be more than pleased with a similar pattern. The season has two clearly defined sections—the cushy non-conference slate that saw the Eagles go 11-4, and the much tougher ACC slate that has resulted in just two wins in 15 games. The losses have piled up, and while this was largely expected with a new coach and plenty of struggles the last few years, it’s still a tough twist for a team that found so much early success.

BC has been close with its opponents throughout the season—the Eagles are nearly even with their opponents in kills and have more digs and fewer errors—but the results aren’t there in the win column. In conference play, this could be attributed to the success opposing players have against them, as BC ranks 14th out of 15 teams in hitting percentage against, while additionally struggling in coming up with blocks (15th).

On Friday, the Eagles committed eight more errors and had seven fewer kills than their visitors, and the corresponding 100-point deficit was too much to overcome. The lone set they won, BC hit a remarkable .263 (15 kills–5 errors–38 attempts) and was able to respond to several Louisville runs. The Eagles trailed throughout, falling behind by scores of 8-5, 14-12, and 20-18 before eventually pulling even at 23 on a Jewel Strawberry kill. The freshman took the game into her hands, and sealed the set win with two more kills. It was an impressive performance from Strawberry, who finished with a double-double in the match with a career-best 17 kills as her strong freshman season continued.

The second set was a remarkable reversal after a disastrous opening frame. Unlike the meeting earlier in the season, Kennedy’s team was far from ready at the first serve, losing the first four points. BC managed to get within one, but were promptly met by a dominant 10-1 run from the Cardinals that left the outcome far from in doubt. The Eagles hit -.061 (7–9–33) in the frame, nearly 200 points off their season average.

The third and fourth sets were much closer, but ultimately leaned in Louisville’s favor. The Cardinals took both by five points, playing nearly perfect in the third—they committed just two errors and racked up 14 kills—before using late runs of 5-0 and 6-3 in the fourth to seal the match victory.

It was a banner day for Louisville’s Claire Chaussee, a freshman who nearly kept pace with Strawberry—the Cardinals outside hitter had 15 kills. Wilma Rivera notched a double-double with 43 assists and 12 digs, outplaying her counterpart on BC in Jane Dejarld (29 assists, 12 digs). The Eagles were able to outdig their visitors, keeping points alive longer with 65 total, but the .141 hitting percentage was the lowest in their last three games.

The Eagles seemed to see the victory within reach and played particularly well with their backs against the wall, but the failure to play well outside of the second and fourth set was more than enough for a formerly-ranked Louisville team to claim a road win. The Cardinals were a mediocre 5-3 on the road entering Friday night’s game, but the Eagles weren’t able to land an opening salvo, instead coming out incredibly flat, and it would prove to be the difference in a fifth-straight loss. BC hasn’t won a conference game since Oct. 21 and have lost 12 of 13 since the opening weekend.

The 11-game undefeated stretch to start the season sparked optimism, but a more realistic assessment has since taken precedent: The Eagles haven’t taken the giant leap that many may of believed. Last year, BC won four conference games, and with tough rematches against Virginia Tech and Virginia looming, the Eagles could come out of the season finale against Clemson—a surging team that has won four of five—shy of that mark.

Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Editor

November 10, 2018