Heading into the weekend, it looked like Boston College volleyball was finally on the upswing. After suffering 13 straight losses, BC had managed to win three straight matches in what head coach Chris Campbell described to BCEagles.com as “not really a streak yet, let’s call it a trend.” Unfortunately for Campbell and the Eagles, any upward trajectory was rerouted after two tough losses against No. 18 Florida State and Miami.
Miami (13-15, 7-9 Atlantic Coast) and BC met earlier this season, and—to put it nicely for BC—it wasn’t pretty. Miami had previously routed BC (8-18, 3-13) this season, taking the game in three dominant sets. Early in the first set, the Eagles appeared to have learned from their previous mistakes. Miami and BC exchanged points early and, thanks in large part to aggressive offensive play from Julia Topor and Cat Balido, BC clung to a lead in the set. Just when it looked like BC would take the early advantage, the Hurricanes went on a 9-1 scoring run to take the set and the early momentum for the game.
The Hurricanes carried their success into the second set as Miami quickly went up 10-5. The Eagles, not wanting to let another set slip through their fingers, responded with resolve. The Eagles went on an 8-3 scoring run, punctuated by back-to-back serving aces from Camille Oemcke to tie the game 13-13. BC kept the score close, but Miami eked out a second set win with the help of five errors committed by the Eagles as the set came to a close.
With Miami now up by two sets, it was now or never for the Eagles. The third set was kept close with neither team ever leading by more than five points. Whenever one would surge slightly ahead, the other would push back to tie the game and build its own lead until the process repeated itself. BC found itself on the right side of this cycle, as the Eagles won the set 25-23 despite a late 5-2 run by the Hurricanes.
The third set had required grit and courage on the part of BC—which is exactly how the Eagles like to play. Unfortunately for the Eagles, this playing style can often prove exhausting. Miami was not about to allow a come-from-behind win on the part of the Eagles. For its part, BC seemed too worn down by the excitement of the previous set to put up much resistance. Miami took an early 7-1 lead and never looked back. The one bright spot for the Eagles was the outstanding play on the part of Sol Calvete, who had seven kills in the last set alone. Calvete had the highest hitting percentage for BC and secured 10 much needed points for the Eagles. Her play, especially in the fourth set, was crucial for BC, but it was not enough to stop the momentum of Miami, as the Hurricanes went on to take the set—and with it the match—25-14.
Miami, once again, was too much for the Eagles, as they were forced to face the fact that history does repeat itself. The same sentiment held true earlier in the weekend as BC faced Florida State in an ACC rematch.
At the start of the first set, BC appeared to have carried the momentum from its three previous wins going into this match. Led on by excellent play from McKenna Goss and Topor, the Eagles staved off early advances from the Seminoles. As the first set progressed, neither team established a rhythm due to both teams’ incapably holding possession for more than three serves at a time. As BC lead 23-22, the tension was felt throughout Power Gym. In these moments when tensions are high and nerves are running rampant, controlling anxiety is important to avoid making undue mistakes. BC did just that, as the set came down to an attack error by Florida State to give BC the first set.
The Eagles had just accomplished something that they haven’t done all season: win a set against No. 18 Florida State. This achievement was short-lived. The Seminoles found the spark that they lacked in the first set to quickly take a 10-6 lead. As the second set progressed, the Eagles kept the Seminoles close, but could not catch up. BC couldn’t pull back Florida State as the Seminoles went on to capture the second set 25-17 to tie up the game.
The third set very much followed in the footsteps of the second. The Seminoles took a big lead early, and the Eagles clawed back but never tied the game or established any lead. Despite the less-than-stellar play by the Eagles as a unit, Goss and Jill Strockis shined in the third set. Goss recorded six kills in the third set on her way to setting a season-high total of 16 kills on the day, while also leading the team with a .387 hitting percentage. Strockis also had an impressive day, as she completed her third double-double on the season by recording 12 kills and 15 digs. Despite these season-defining performances, the Seminoles pulled away from BC in the third set as they went on to take it 25-17.
The excitement and momentum of the first set was long gone for the Eagles by the beginning of the fourth set. Florida State again took an early lead and never looked back. Despite continued outstanding performances from Goss and Strockis, the Seminoles’ momentum was too much for the Eagles to overcome. While the score came within two at points in the set, the outcome was never really in doubt. Florida State went on to take the fourth set 25-18 and with it the match, ending BC’s winning streak.
For BC volleyball, the two games this weekend can either be a bump in the road or a turning point in the season. If the Eagles can return to their winning rhythm and put these two games behind them, the season may still be salvaged. If, however, the Eagles return to the mindset they held during the 13-game losing streak, they will become a self-fulfilling prophecy incapable of winning even when the situation and talent demand it.
“We have got to make sure that we keep our focus on what we have been doing these last two months and keep addressing the areas we have to improve in practice,” Campbell told BCEagles.com.
Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor