Stairway to Seven

Women’s volleyball soars to seventh straight conference title.

I struggle to find a title to adequately describe the Eastern women’s volleyball team’s past two decades or so. The 18-Year Dynasty? The Reign of Terror? The Queens of the Court, perhaps?

The Eagles celebrate one of their many points Saturday.
The Eagles celebrate one of their many points Saturday. Erica Engle | EU Sports Information
In essence, there is no easy way to describe the program that added its seventh straight conference title Saturday, and its 17th in 18 seasons.

The Eagles took on DeSales, the only team to win a game (italicize) from the Eagles all season, for the conference title. The Eagles swept to a three game victory behind the passing of libero Rylie Haas, who was named championship MVP for her 21 digs, and the setting of Freedom Conference Player of the Year Rikki Schlager. Schlager set up the Eagles attack with 31 assists.

After an up and down first set that went Eastern’s way 25-21, the Eagles flexed their offensive muscles in set two. Here’s a score you do not see often in volleyball: 25-3. Eastern hit .452 in the set, along with several service aces, to earn the victory in just over 12 minutes. DeSales called both of their allotted timeouts during the set, but the momentum had already shifted fully to the Eagles. The set was perfectly representative of the kind of unchecked force the team has been in the conference for the last 18 years.

Though considerably less suffocating, Eastern took set three 25-19 to trigger the celebration.

There were notable performances across the board. Schlager, added seven kills to her stat sheet to go along with the 31 assists, a rare feat for a setter. Captains Lauren Sproles and Katrina Pisch led the Eagles in kills with 10 each, while junior Erin Hillman was second with nine. Defensively, passing specialist Miranda Kauffman chipped in 13 digs to go along with Haas’ 21.

The Eagles’ attention now turns to the NCAA tournament, which begins this coming Saturday.

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