Volleyball athletes reach milestone

Before boarding a plane to St. Louis for a four game tournament hosted by Washington University, the 4th ranked Eastern University Volleyball team knew they would have their hands full with talented competition. However, it is safe to say nobody bargained for the immense milestones that would be reached on this short trip. The Eagles won 3 out of 4 games, dropping one hard fought battle to number 3 Washington University, but the bigger story was the career marks met by star seniors Maria Horning and Courtney Reinhold.

In back-to-back games, Horning and Reinhold reached milestones of 5,000 sets and 2,000 kills respectively. Horning achieved the mark in a win against Mt. St. Mary’s, while Reinhold accomplished it the next day against Hanover College.

Of course, 5,000 sets and 2,000 kills sounds like an incredible amount, but only when put in perspective do these records appear to be truly astonishing. Both players accomplished the milestones in the 25-point-set-era, which took effect in their freshman year, 2008. Matches were previously played to 30 points, giving players much more of an opportunity to set records. With some rudimentary math, it is easy to see that over the four year careers of these two all Americans, they would have had chances to play almost 2,000 more points if sets were still played to 30.

The two players still shattered records even with significantly less opportunities. Since the switch to 25-point-sets, Reinhold is the first Division III player to reach 2,000 kills and Horning is the first Eastern player to reach 5,000 sets.

However, it is clear that these athletes were more focused on team accomplishments during their careers than their individual statistics. Both noted being unaware of approaching the milestones until directly before their historical matches. However, they obviously have noticed the undeniable chemistry that stems from playing together for almost 7 years dating back to a Lancaster club team.

The time spent together has clearly produced a profound on court bond.

“Maria and I have always had this connection” Reinhold said, “We’ve been playing together since we were sixteen and it was awesome that we could both reach such huge accomplishments at the same time.”

Each also recognizes the other as her complement, making a big impact on each other’s ability to reach such lofty records. “I think the fact that Courtney has killed two fifths of my assists is pretty crazy,” Horning said. “It just goes to show that we can read each other very well and know our presence on the court.”

Head coach Mark Birtwistle, who recruited the pair four years ago says he is still amazed by what they and the team as a whole is accomplishing.

“Paul [Douglas, assistant coach] and I still sit on the bench sometimes and just say ‘These guys are awesome,'” Birtwistle said. “We play with them at practice and they still blow us away.”

Clearly, the modern era of Eastern Volleyball is the best it has ever been, and this is largely due to the senior leaders at the helm of the team. When asked about their future goals, both shared a common sentiment. “Make it to the Final Four and win a National title.” Horning said without hesitation. Undoubtedly, this is an ambitious target, but a very achievable one for the Eagles, and the time for this team to act is now. They are seeded at the top of their regional bracket and hosting the regional round at Neumann University’s facilities. It is clear that whether they raise the trophy in St. Louis or not, the duo has had careers to be remembered both in the history books and minds of Eastern’s fans.

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