By SAMMY BHATIA
For The News-Letter
This past weekend, the Hopkins volleyball team traveled to Pennsylvania to land a pair of decisive victories over the Bryn Mawr College Owls and the Gettysburg College Bullets.
Their impressive weekend landed them a tie for a No. 1 seed with Gettysburg and the Haverford College Black Squirrels in the Centennial Conference for the regular season standings. All three teams stand at 8-2.
The Lady Jays played their first match of the weekend on Friday against the Owls, sweeping them in three sets. Hopkins was thus able to tip their .500 season record to 11-10 and improve their Centennial Conference record to 7-2.
Hopkins took a quick lead, racing to a 5-0 lead right off the bat. Bryn Mawr was able to claw its way back into the match before Lady Jay sophomore Elizabeth Wuerstle dropped five consecutive service aces to take the set to a 16-5 lead.
Wuerstle landed another ace later on to achieve a career-high of six service aces. Hopkins maintained a steady pace through the rest of the set and closed it out at 25-10.
The second set started with a very minor scare for the Jays as the home team took a 3-1 lead. Undeterred, Hopkins scored nine points in a row to take a 10-3 lead. The Jays clinched the set at 25-10.
The final set followed in similar fashion: Hopkins showcased their dominance from the start, dropping only one of the first 10 points after winning the first five consecutively.
Freshman Grace Haselhorst, who stands at 5-feet-11-inches, made a kill to close the set at 25-12 and put an end to the match at 3-0. Two players who really excelled for the Lady Jays were sophomores Erica Johnston and Kristi Rhead.
Johnston had nine digs and an even more impressive match-high of nine kills.
For the third straight match, Rhead led the team in the number of assists. In a match that was not even her best of the weekend, she managed to tally up 26 assists, 13 digs, six service aces and three kills on only five swings.
The next day proved to be more of a challenge as the Jays were forced to dig deeper to pull away with a 3-1 victory against the Gettysburg.
The first set was tight, reaching 22-21 in favor of the Bullets before Hopkins scored four of the final five points to steal the first set.
The second set came to the Blue Jays more comfortably, but Gettysburg seized the third, putting some pressure on the visiting team to close out the match sooner rather than later.
Hopkins was able to do just that in perhaps the closest and most tense set of the match. The Jays did not have a lead until the tail end of the game, when the scoreboard read 21-20.
They pushed further and broadened the gap to 24-21. Gettysburg inched back by winning the next two points, but a kill from Johnston secured the 3-1 victory.
Following Rhead’s performance over the weekend, she was named Centennial Volleyball Player of the Week.
Having totaled 41 assists, 14 digs and four blocks in that match alone, it was her performance against Gettysburg especially that not only earned her the title but also earned Hopkins the right to host the Centennial Conference tournament.
“We are pleased to be at home for the Conference tournament; it should help our ailing players recover,” head coach Tim Cole said in an interview with http://www.hopkinssports.com. “Every week of this season has been dramatically different from one another, and this team has gotten very good about rolling with the punches. We were able to do what we did because of how we train and the culture of our program.”
Senior Carolyn Zinn, to add onto Coach Cole, said, “We are striving to improve our competitive flow every day. With a long stretch with no matches, these two matches gave us the chance to play someone other than ourselves like we do in practice. With these two wins, we now have the opportunity to host conference championships this weekend.”
Hopkins will have the home-court advantage as they host this year’s Centennial Conference tournament this upcoming weekend. This advantage might prove to be crucial for the injury-plagued Jays, in their efforts toward continuing their season into post-season play. The matches will take place all day Saturday and Sunday Nov. 7-8 in the Goldfarb Gymnasium.