NORTH MANCHESTER, Indiana - The Earlham College volleyball team came from two sets down to defeat Manchester University 3-2 (21-25, 22-25, 25-20, 25-20, 15-12) to win the first Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) match in school history on Saturday. The win snapped a 63-match conference losing streak.
"Each year we've collected a piece to the puzzle," third-year Head Coach Lauren Horton said. "This win speaks volumes to the resiliency of our student-athletes as well as the hard work they've put in."
Things did not start out well for the Quakers as the Spartans took the first two sets by scores of 25-21 and 25-22. Manchester hit .212 and .156 in the first two sets compared to .108 and .129 for Earlham. The Quakers came close in each set, but couldn't quite get over the hump.
In past HCAC matches, 63 losses to be exact, Earlham may have thrown in the towel, but this match was different. The Quakers' offensive began to heat up as Earlham hit a .263 clip in set three. Even still, the visitors faced adversity as the hosts held a 14-11 lead midway through the set.
"After the second set, our team did not get rattled," said Horton. "Sure we made some errors, but they were good errors because we were being aggressive."
Trailing by three, Earlham rattled off seven consecutive points off a service run from sophomore setter Lauren Jackson to take an 18-14 lead. The Quakers held that advantage throughout until kills from freshman Carly Federinko and sophomore Angelica Carpio sealed the set.
Manchester still led 2-1, but had no answer for Earlham's front row. The Quakers, just like they had in the last two sets, continued to improve their hitting percentage to the turn of 17 kills and seven errors on 35 swings in the fourth set. The Spartans, conversely, saw their offense slumping as the hosts hit just .091 in the fourth set. Earlham got out to a 9-6 advantage and never looked back.
The fifth set began with neither team leading by more than two points. Seven of Earlham's first eight points were won off kills, but it was the Spartans who took an 8-7 lead to force a Quaker timeout.
Earlham had been close to winning an HCAC match before, last year in fact. The Quakers were leading Mount St. Joseph University (MSJ) 12-8 in the fifth set last year when the Lions called a timeout. MSJ rattled off seven straight points to win the match.
Determined not to suffer the same fate, freshman Julia Stewart promptly put down a kill and added back-to-back service aces to give Earlham a 10-8 lead. Manchester tied the match with an ace and a Quaker service error, but consecutive hitting errors from Emma DeWitt put the visitors back up two (12-10). Kills from Federinko and junior Megan Hedinger got Earlham to match point, and an attack error from Riley Patterson sent the Quakers celebrating a conference win for the first time since the last match of the 2009 season.
Earlham hit a .304 clip in the final set compared to just .053 for Manchester. The Quakers improved hitting as the match went on while the Spartans got worse each set.
Stewart finished with 22 kills and a .348 attack percentage to lead Earlham offensively while Carpio and junior Ashleigh Burton also recorded double digits in kills. Jackson dished out 48 assists while Hedinger had 28 digs.
Haley Duncan led the Spartans with 15 kills in defeat.
Earlham improves to 13-5 overall and 1-0 in the HCAC with the win. The Quakers look for a second conference win when they host Defiance College on Wednesday.