Sports, Fall, Volleyball

Eagles Return Home, Knock Off Duke

Nicknamed the “Frozen Tundra,” Lambeau Field provides the Green Bay Packers with arguably the greatest home field advantage: freezing temperatures. As a result, the Packers have won every home playoff game during the first 45 years of the field’s existence.

While it’s not comparable to the weather conditions of Wisconsin, Boston College volleyball has an obvious advantage in Power Gym. Given the gym’s small size, BC has mastered the ability to continue rallies off the ceiling and basketball hoops that crowd the overhead area above the court. Most visiting teams have not played in a multipurpose gym, and this inexperience proved detrimental to BC’s most recent visitor, Duke.

In a thrilling, four-set match, the Eagles (14–14, 4–10 Atlantic Coast) took victory over Duke (15–10, 6–8), a stark contrast to the teams’ previous meeting in which BC lost in straight sets. After a two-week drought without a home match, the BC faithful packed Power Gym, donning maroon and gold and carrying homemade signs to support the players.

The Eagles started off the day with an energy that has been missing as of late. Mackenzie Fuhrmann recently won her way into the starting lineup, and she proved why against Duke. She contributed to three consecutive BC points early in the first sets, keeping BC within reach of its opponent and ending a 3–0 Blue Devil run.

After falling behind late 23–19, BC capitalized on a service error from Payton Schwantz and started a 6–1 run to take the lead. The Eagles could not finish the job swiftly, however, and Duke clawed back to retake it 26–25. Unwilling to allow the visiting team to take the first set, freshman Jenna Pollock responded with a resounding kill to keep her team alive.

Pollock’s kill flipped the switch for the Eagles, as they forced two attack errors from the Blue Devils to win the first and carry momentum into the second set.

With the support of the crowd behind them and the knowledge that they would not be swept once again, the Eagles plowed through the second set, taking it 25–13. After outside hitter Gracie Johnson tallied 10 kills in the opening set, the Eagles limited her presence and held her to only two in the second.

The Eagles were aggressive in the second set, forcing six Duke attack errors while only committing one of their own. Improved setting from Jane Petrie and Grace Penn eliminated the miscommunication that has plagued the BC offense this season and allowed for effective attacks.

“We’re pretty young on the setting front, and our setters continue to improve,” head coach Jason Kennedy said. “I think [today’s performance] shows a lot of what we’re doing every day in the gym is paying off.”

With the Blue Devils desperate to return to Durham victorious, four new starters were thrown onto the court to begin the third.

“We got uncomfortable in the start of the third set when they went to a different lineup that we weren’t all too familiar with,” Kennedy said. “We had to adjust quicker than we actually did.”

Errors were the ultimate downfall of the Eagles in the third, as five service errors and five attack errors presented as a poor reminder of BC missteps at other moments in the season. Despite these mistakes, the third set proved to be the most competitive, with the score being tied 10 different times and the lead changing possession four times.

Even with the Eagles’ kills being spread evenly across five different players, the Blue Devils put up multiple blocks to effectively shut down the home attack. After a kill from Amaka Chukwujekwu gave the Eagles the lead 24–23, the Blue Devils followed with the three needed points to take their first set of the day.

Trailing 10–3 in the fourth set, a much-needed timeout from Kennedy allowed the Eagles to recuperate. BC rallied to take the fourth set 27–25 and claim the match.

“I didn’t feel like we had any momentum going,” Kennedy said. “But they kept grinding and fighting, and to [the team’s] credit, this was a big win to get.”

Featured Image by Nicole Vagra / Heights Staff

November 14, 2021