The Emory volleyball team continued its flair for the dramatic Friday evening in the semifinal round of the NCAA D-III Championship, earning its second straight five-set win. The Eagles' quest to defend its national crown remained intact after holding off a gutty Carthage College squad by a 3-2 margin (25-19, 25-23, 16-25, 20-25, 16-14), raising their overall record to 34-2 while Carthage saw the curtain come down on a 31-4 campaign. The Championship is being held at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
To say that Emory found a way to win would be an understatement as the Lady Reds finished the contest with the advantage in hitting percentage, .321 (67-17—156) to .262 (65-22—164), digs (66-65) and total blocks (11-7). In the decisive fifth set, the Eagles did post a hitting effort of .333 (11-2—27) compared to Carthage's .240 (9-3—25) and used some timely defensive play at the net in finally securing the win. After playing just one five-set match in its opening 24 matches, Emory has now played six in its last 12 outings. The Eagles are 7-0 in five-setters this season.
Sophomore Tara Martin topped the Emory attack, which featured four players with double-figure kills, with 16 terminations along with a glowing hitting percentage of .452 (16-2—31). It represented Martin's 19th performance of the season with 10 or more put-aways and 16th with an attack percentage of .350 or higher. Junior Leah Saunders pounded out 16 kills, including a team-high four in the fifth game, and added six aces and 14 digs. Senior Morgan McKnight totaled 13 terminations while junior Maggie Rimmel rounded out quartet with 11 successful swings, her fifth double-figure showing of the season, while hitting .429 (11-2—21). Freshman Cassie Srb dished out 50 assists and logged six kills while senior Elyse Thompson and junior Finn Wilkins chipped in 15 digs and five blocks, respectively.
Set 1 – Emory 25, Carthage 19
* * Emory hits a solid .382 (17-4—34) in the opening set compared to Carthage's .229 (13-5—35)
* Martin posts six terminations and hits .462 (6-0—13).
* Leah Saunders contributes four successful attack attempts and hits .500 (4-1—6).
* Holding a 13-12 advantage, the Eagles go on a 6-1 splurge with Saunders dialing up all four of her kills during that run, to claim a 19-13 lead.
* After the Lady Reds, cut their deficit in half following a 3-0 spurt, back-to-back kills by Martin are part of three straight points by Emory that put it ahead, 22-16.
* Kills by McKnight and Srb close out the set for the Eagles.
Set 2 – Emory 25, Carthage 23
* In one of the more bizarre sets that Emory has played in this season, it sees Carthage hit .352 (13-1—34) to compared to .270 (15-5—37), but still gets the win to go up 2-0 in the match.
* Tied at 8-8, Leah Saunders go on a tear on the service line, dishing out five of her six aces as part of an 11-0 Eagle explosion that puts them ahead by a seemingly comfortable 19-8 margin. Aiding in the run are two kills apiece by Martin and Rimmel.
* The Lady Reds fight their way back into the set, answering with a 7-2 charge to creep to within 21-15.
* After a service error extends Emory's lead to 22-15, the Lady Reds continue to press on by accounting for seven of the set's next eight points, slicing the Emory margin to just one point, 23-22.
* Emory holds off the Carthage comeback bid and wins the set as the Lady Reds stymie themselves with two service errors.
Set 3 – Carthage 25, Emory 16
* Carthage comes through with another solid offensive showing, hitting .355 (13-1—34) and using a strong defensive effort that limits Emory to .086 (11-8—35) in winning their first set.
* The Eagles get off to an impressive start, using a pair of kills by Saunders and terminations by Rimmel, Wilkins and McKnight in taking a 7-3 lead.
* A 6-1 Emory run, capped by a kill from Srb, pushes the Eagles to a 14-6 cushion.
* Carthage turns the tables on Emory with 10 unanswered points, fueled by three kills from Andrea Kozak to lay claim to a 16-14 edge.
* A kill by Srb draws Emory to within one points, but the Lady Reds close out the set on a 9-1 spree, keyed by three block assists from Kozak and Haley Horner.
Set 4 – Carthage 25, Emory 20
* Buoyed by its strong finish in the previous set, Carthage comes through with another impressive attacking effort, registering a mark of .419 (18-5---31) to the Eagles' .258 (11-3—31).
* McKnight dials up five kills for Emory while Saunders contributes three.
* Four straight points by Carthage puts it up by a 10-4 score.
* The Eagles responded with four straight points, the last two coming on service aces by Kelsey Meins, to narrow their deficit to 10-8.
* With the count, 17-13 in the Lady Reds favor, the teams split the next eight points, giving them a 21-17 advantage.
* A Carthage attack error followed by a McKnight kill keeps the Eagles in the hunt, down 21-19, but the Lady Reds score the next two points. After a kill by Srb. Carthage evens the match by scoring the final two points.
Set 5 - Emory 16, Carthage 14
* Playing its fourth five-set match in its last seven contests, Emory leads by a 4-2 margin, only to see Carthage rattle off five straight points to go ahead, 7-4.
* A termination by Rimmel, an ace from Thompson and block assists by Srb and Wilkins quickly erases the gap and ties the set at 7-7.
* After seeing Carthage account for three of the next four points, a kill by McKnight jump-starts a 4-0 spurt that gives the Eagles a 12-10 edge.
* After splitting the next two points, Carthage ties the game at 13-13 following a pair of Eagle miscues.
* After the teams trade side-outs, Emory finally subdues Carthage as kills by Martin and Srb close out the memorable match.
Emory will play either Johns Hopkins or Trinity University (TX) in the showdown for the national title on Saturday starting at 8:00 pm (EST).