Boston College volleyball’s historic season continued in record-breaking fashion against Southern Mississippi on Saturday.
Not only did BC’s 3–1 semifinals win against Southern Mississippi earn the Eagles a program-best 23 wins on the season, but Jason Kennedy became the winningest coach in program history, earning his 81st career win. In his fifth season at BC, Kennedy surpassed Andrea Leonard, who earned 80 wins over seven seasons between 2003–09.
“I think it means a lot,” Kennedy said. “Just, you know, obviously there’s a lot of people that go into this. This isn’t about me necessarily. I’ve been fortunate enough to have the same staff since the day I started here.”
In their first ever matchup, the Eagles (23–13, 7–11 Atlantic Coast) defeated Southern Mississippi (21–12, 10–6 Sun Belt) by scores of 25–21, 16–25, 29–27, 25–16 to advance to the finals of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship.
After a competitive start to the first set, the Eagles began to pull away. BC’s blockers were a brick wall on defense, with Julia Haggerty and Kate Brennan totaling a combined three blocks in the set. A kill from Silvia Ianeselli put BC up 10–5 and forced the first Southern Mississippi timeout.
A kill from Haggerty ricocheted off the face of Southern Mississippi’s Megan Harris, extending the Eagles’ lead to 18–9.
Southern Mississippi did not go down quietly, however, clawing its way back to within three points. A kill from Alayna Crabtree ended the run, though, and the Eagles secured the first set.
“You don’t know how to defend us, cause you never know what you’re gonna get,” Kennedy said. “You know, I think, there’s so many different pieces to be able to defend, you have to pick and choose … we can beat people a lot of different ways right now.”
Southern Mississippi took a 4–1 lead to start the second set. But Brennan sent another kill flying off of the face of Harris that shifted the momentum, and the Eagles rattled off four straight points.
Southern Mississippi pulled away, though, taking a commanding 13–8 lead over the Eagles.
BC continued to struggle in the set, going down 21–16 before taking a timeout. But Southern Mississippi continued its dominance, comfortably taking the second set 25–16.
In the third set, the two teams got out to a 17–17 tie. The Eagles pulled away, but Southern Mississippi fought back to take a 24–22 lead.
Neither team could close out the set, which was tied at 27, until kills from Brennan and Crabtree finally ended the exchange, giving the Eagles a one-set advantage.
“Well, the third set was gonna be the turning point,” Kennedy said. “You know, I really felt like there was a lot of momentum riding on that third set. Once it got into extra points and the back-and-forth battle, it was pretty clear to me whoever won that set was gonna have a pretty huge advantage.”
The momentum from the third set carried over into the fourth, with BC quickly taking an 11–5 lead and never giving it up.
It was Peyton Minyard, who had not played since Sept. 17 against Columbia, to put the nail in the coffin for Southern Mississippi, propelling the Eagles to a fourth-set win and a ticket to the finals of the NIVC.
Ianeselli tallied 14 kills and 17 digs, Brennan recorded 11 kills and four blocks, and Haggerty notched nine kills on a .818 hit percentage in the win.
The Eagles have played every game of the tournament thus far in their new court in the Margot Connell Recreation Center. BC’s venue will change in the finals, however, as the Eagles will travel to Des Moines, Iowa to take on Drake.
“We like playing here,” Kennedy said. “This is a great facility for us, we’re comfortable in this building, and I think it showed. You know, we’ve been on a little bit of a tear here late, and I think our ability to get in this building for practice everyday and have this be our home has been instrumental to our success down the line.”