On Saturday, Nov. 5, the UMW volleyball team defeated Salisbury University, 3-1, to become the 2022 Coast-to-Coast Conference champions in front of a home crowd. With a hard-fought, 3-2 win on Friday over No. 3 seed Christopher Newport University, the Eagles moved on to the finals against Salisbury to ultimately win the title for the third time in school history.
“We were thrilled to truly cement that we are the stronger team once again,” said junior geography major Marie Butler. “It’s one thing to beat a team once, but three times brought us great confidence in ourselves. Salisbury is always a hard opponent and winning again made us feel like our hard work truly paid off.”
The Eagles dominated most of the sets throughout the Salisbury game.
At one point, UMW and Salisbury were tied 1-1 following the first two sets, but UMW came back swinging for the final two. It was 16-24 during the third set when Caitlyn Burch took the opportunity to spike the ball and put the Eagles up 2-1.
The winning point was secured by sophomore setter Brenna Campbell. She served the ball and the other team bumped the ball out of bounds, giving the last point and championship to UMW.
“Beating Salisbury in the final was a surreal moment for me and the team,” said junior psychology major Emma Hadley. “We had already defeated Salisbury twice this season, so we were very confident entering the game that we could take them. We haven’t won the conference since 2016 and the entire game was one to remember. The giant crowd and the energy the team had gave us a clear path to winning that game.”
Senior business administration major Krista Rodgers, honored last week by the Coast-to-Coast conference as a Scholar-Athlete of the Year, expressed how incredible it felt to win the championship.
“That is a goal we have every season and for the last 3 seasons (missing a season because of covid) we have been so driven to achieve that goal and for it to have just happened this season is a dream come true,” said Rodgers. “Each day in the training gym we try to push ourselves like we would in the championship game so that we are constantly getting better and are ready for anything when we get in that situation.”
The Eagles reached a spot in the final against Salisbury after coming out on top from a tough battle, despite unexpected electrical issues, against rival Christopher Newport the day before.
Five minutes into the first set, CNU was up by three points when the lights shut off, stopping the game. Many people in the crowd were confused but continued to cheer for their team. It took about 15 minutes for the lights to fully turn on, and then the game proceeded.
UMW took over the second set by Hannah Livermon going in for a dig, Campbell keeping the ball up and sophomore Emily Flamm going in for a right tip to keep it alive, blocking the ball from the opposing team and ending the set with a score of 26-24.
The two rivals pushed each other into a five-set game with UMW working together to win the semifinal match.
The two matches were part of the Coast-to-Coast Volleyball Tournament on Nov. 4 and 5, which UMW hosted in the Ron Rosner Arena.
Alumni Tenley Hares, a 2020 graduate with a degree in biology, returned to her alma mater to become one of the assistant coaches for her former team.
“CNU has always been a big rivalry with us,” she said. “It’s always been us in the championship, and last year we played them in the semifinals and that ended our season. It’s always been one of those big pressure games.”
Before the game against CNU, Head Coach Alex Hinsey shared the team’s game plan.
“Our game plan is to focus on our side of the net to be the best team we can be today,” he said. “And not to worry as much about what the other team is doing!” Before every game, he always tells the players, “Focus on yourself and be the best player you can be today.”
After the game, the team celebrated their triumph over their rival in the semifinals.
“It was definitely nerve-wracking, but all day I had it in my head that we are not losing this game,” said Flamm, an elementary education major, after the match against CNU. “We already beat CNU twice this season so we knew what we had to do to win. Lovely Hannah Livermon went on a 10-point run with her serve, as soon as that happened I knew we were gonna win.”
Hares also shared her thoughts about the semifinal game versus CNU.
“This year they rose to this occasion and you couldn’t see the pressure on them,” she said. “We’ve beaten them three times this year and that’s kind of unheard of and hard to do. They always say it is hard to beat them three times but we did it.”
The Eagles’ big win on Saturday earned them an automatic spot in the NCAA Division III Tournament. They will face off against Cedar Crest College on Thursday, Nov. 10, once again at home in the Ron Rosner Arena.
“We are feeling super excited to have the opportunity to play in the tournament as well as being able to host it!” said Rodgers. “It is so awesome to be able to be at our home court again for this awesome opportunity. The student section was so helpful during the conference play and am so excited to see how it will be during this tournament!”