There were times when it looked like the EMU volleyball women looked ready for their biggest ODAC win of the decade. At other times, their mistakes held them back. In the end, the miscues were just too many as the Royals dropped a tough, although exciting, 3-2 home loss to Virginia Wesleyan.
Eastern Mennonite had a two sets-to-one advantage during the match, and held a handful of leads in the fifth set before finally dropping a 17-15 heartbreaker to close the night.
The Royals are now 5-12 on the season, including 2-5 in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. Two of the women's ODAC losses were 3-2 decisions. Virginia Wesleyan improves to 10-6 overall and 5-1 in the ODAC, maintaining their hold on third place in the league standings.
It was a Jekyll and Hyde kind of night for Eastern Mennonite, starting in the first set when they used a five-point spurt to trigger a 14-3 run for an 18-10 lead. The Marlins scored the next five and eventually locked up the score at 23-23, but EMU tallied two to grab the opening set, 25-23.
Virginia Wesleyan methodically pulled away in the second, winning 25-13.
The women had a 4-0 run early in the third to erase a deficit, and the two teams went toe-to-toe for the seemingly vital set. Trailing 21-20, Eastern Mennonite dropped another four spot to flip in front, 24-21. The Marlins got within 24-23 before Janna Williams (Kenbridge, Va./Kenston Forest) closed the door on another 25-23 victory.
The visitors held a slight lead much of the fourth set, however, before pulling away late. VWU closed on a 7-2 run to even the match, 25-18.
Both teams had exhilarating surges in the deciding set, starting with EMU's early 3-0 run for a 4-2 lead. The Marlins answered with three of their own points, but the women again looked in charge when a 4-0 streak put them up 10-8. Erin Brubaker (Goessel, Kan./Goessel) had two kills in the run.
Virginia Wesleyan again had the answer, coming back with a 3-0 jab to get in front 11-10. The women forged a tie at 11-11, and fended up a pair of match point serves to tie it again at 14-14. After another VWU point, Williams landed a kill to tie it yet again at 15-15. But the Marlins had too much firepower, getting back-to-back kills to close out a 17-15 fifth set.
Eastern Mennonite played well enough in both serving and serve receive to keep in the match, but in the end, VWU just out-hit them, .231 to .090.
Skyler Johnson (Harrisonburg, Va./Harrisonburg) was a star of the match, racking up a career high 36 digs. The senior libero's previous best was 34 against St. Mary's (Md.) last fall.
Williams led the offense with 10 kills in just three sets of play. She hit .348, her second-highest attack percentage of the season. Brubaker and Beck Hoskins (Danville, Va./Westover Christian Academy) each added seven kills.
Maria Yoder (Manheim, Pa./Hempfield) had four of the team's ten service aces. The Royals made only five service errors and gave up seven aces to VWU.
Doneisha Hall led the Marlins with 17 kills. Elizabeth Britton was also in double figures with 13 kills along with five blocks.
Eastern Mennonite hits the road this weekend, including a tri-match in Lancaster, Pa., on Saturday. The Royals play Wilson at 1:00pm followed by tri-match host Lancaster Bible College at 3:00pm. They play at St. Mary's (Md.) on Sunday.