By Michael Henken Staff writer
The Susquehanna volleyball team defeated Scranton but lost to Juniata on Sept. 24 in the first fall Landmark Conference tournament.
During the weekend’s opening set between Susquehanna and Scranton, the River Hawks fell behind 5-0 early, but rallied back to tie the game at eight.
The set was tied three more times before a Royal attacking mishap gave Susquehanna an opportunity to capitalize. The River Hawks took a 25-21 victory in the first set.
The second set proved to be a more a dominant one for Susquehanna, as the River Hawks earned a 25-16 victory. The set was tied at eight before a kill by junior outside hitter Morgan Lowe gave the River Hawks a lead, which they held onto for the remainder of the set. The momentum carried into the final set for Susquehanna, as the River Hawks outscored Scranton 25-14 to claim the match 3-0.
Susquehanna had 49 kills that day with a hitting percentage of .333 while Scranton had 31 kills with a hitting percentage of .118. Lowe led the team with 17 kills while senior outside hitter Marykate Sherkness had 11 of her own. Senior setter Maggie O’Hearn also had a strong showing, leading all setters with 38 assists.
Despite a positive start against Scranton, Susquehanna faced a tougher test in Juniata. The Eagles have won the Landmark Conference championship nine consecutive years. They are also currently ranked 12th in the country for divison III.
The River Hawks lost to the Eagles by a score of 3-0.
Juniata got off to a quick start in the first set, establishing a 5-0 lead. An attack error gave Susquehanna its first point of the contest, but the Eagles responded well by adding another five points before a kill from Lowe added another point for Susquehanna. The River Hawks came within seven, but the effort ultimately proved to be too little as Juniata took the first set 25-15.
Susquehanna once again fought hard in the second set, but a 21-13 run gave the Eagles a 25-17 win. Juniata also struck first in the final set, and the Eagles held onto the lead for the remainder of the contest as they earned a 25-21 win to get the sweep.
Lowe once again led the River Hawks in kills with nine while senior setter Erin Byrne added six and freshman middle hitter Hannah Lyons totaled five. O’Hearn had 21 assists and freshman outside hitter Caroline Beohm tallied 14 digs.
Lyons said: “We need to put it behind us. Every loss yields lessons at both the team and the personal level. Our job as athletes is to get back into the gym and use those lessons to become better as one. It’s a loss that lights a fire underneath everyone and I’m beyond excited to see how we will improve before we see them again. So yes, we lost. Yes it sucks. But it just reinforces the value of every minute of every practice; of every touch of every ball.”
Head Coach Kuuipo Tom shared the same optimism.
“There are always a lot of positives to be taken away from either a win or a loss. If we’re not winning, we’re learning,” he said. “This week provided us an idea of where we stand in the conference and how we can train to do better as we move farther down the road toward the rest of the conference season. It also gave us a good indication that we need to be mentally focused from start to finish, regardless of who is on the other side of the net.”
As far as the remainder of the season goes, Coach Tom’s expectations are clear.
“Our expectation is to continue to get better, to focus on a strategy that will help us to continue growing our championship culture, to stay healthy and to be the best 17 players that we can be,” he said, “and of course, to have the great outcomes that happen when you have your focus on doing all of the little things right.”
Susquehanna returns to action on October 1 when they play conference opponent Elizabethtown at 11 a.m. during the second Landmark Conference weekend. Elizabethtown currently sits at 4-12 on the season and 0-2 in conference play.