The No. 1-ranked Emory volleyball team remained undefeated following the final day of play at the Berry College National Invitational. The Eagles swept Covenant College (25-19, 25-14, 25-21) before coming away with an intense 3-2 verdict (25-23, 25-22, 25-27, 21-25, 15-13) over the No. 9 ranked and host Vikings of Berry. Emory now stands 6-0 after two weekends of competition.
Emory saw 13 different players come up with kills in the Covenant contest, led by sophomore Tara Martin who produced a match-leading eight terminations while hitting a glowing .583 (8-1—12). Senior Morgan McKnight totaled five kills to go along with a .625 attack percentage while Kaia Johnson and Charlese Blair each chipped in four successful attack attempts. The Eagles hit .224 (36-17---85) vs. the Scots' mark of .026 (21-19—76).
The anticipated early season showdown between Emory and Berry saw the Eagles jump out to a 2-0 lead, winning the opening two sets by a combined five points. Emory scrapped back from a 21-17 deficit in the first game, using a 7-0 spurt that saw McKnight dole out three kills and junior Leah Saunders a pair to put the Eagles one point from claiming the opening game. After the Vikings crept to within a pair, Saunders closed it with a successful attack. The early stages of the second game saw the teams jockey to get the upper hand before a kill by McKnight put Emory ahead by a 14-11 margin. Berry answered with a 7-3 spurt that enabled the hosts to lay claim to an 18-17 advantage. With the score deadlocked at 22-22, the Eagles accounted for the final three points, with freshman Cassie Srb coming through with a kill that was sandwiched by a pair of BC hitting miscues. Emory appeared ready to close out the match in the third set when a 6-0 charge put it ahead, 17-13. The Vikings then mounted a 4-0 run, tying things up at 17-17 and setting the stage for back-and-forth action that saw Emory fight off a pair of set points before a hitting error and a kill by BC's Peyton Breissinger forced a fourth game. The Vikings stayed alive in that set, building a 19-13 cushion before fending off a late Eagle charge. With momentum on its side, Berry held a 13-9 lead in the decsive fifth set following an Emory attack error, but the Eagles stunned the Vikings with six unanswered points, highlighted by four block assists by sophomore Roisin O'Dowd and two by McKnight, to escape with victory. McKnight led Emory with 16 kills, tying her third-highest total, while Saunders and Martin each racked up 15 terminations with Martin's total representing a career high. The Eagles held a .191 (57-26—162) vs. .169 (62-32—178) edge in hitting percentage and a 14-9 margin in total blocks with O'Dowd pacing all players with six block assists.
Tara Martin was named Co-MVP of the National Invitational, tying McKnight for the team lead with an average of 3.20 kills per set while hitting .333 (32-8—72). Freshman Cassie Srb also landed a spot on the All-Invitational Team after averaging 10.18 assists and 1.27 digs over 11 sets.
Berry National Invitational All-Tourney Team
Ellie Stigger-Transy co-MVP
Tara Martin- Emory co-MVP
Mackenzie Kennedy- Endicott
Peyton Breissinger- Berry
Heather Antrim- Rhodes
Emily Moore- Covenant