Previewing 2018 Volleyball: New England Challenge

bc volleyball

This weekend, three local rivals will battle for state bragging rights amid the New England Challenge volleyball tournament. Before entering an ACC-laden back half of the season, the Eagles will play Harvard, Massachusetts Lowell, and Northeastern.

High off a three-match sweep at the Dartmouth Invitational, BC will kick off the early-season tournament against Harvard before rounding out the event with matches against the River Hawks and Huskies. Strong performances from McKenna Goss, Jill Strockis, and Cat Balido on the front line should bode well for the Eagles, as head coach Jason Kennedy’s team hungers for its 10th, 11th, and 12th consecutive wins of the season. Meanwhile, the neighboring programs are just looking to right the ship—in fact, Harvard, UMass Lowell, and Northeastern have posted a combined record of 7-18 through the first two weeks of the 2018 campaign.

Who is BC playing?

Harvard, UMass Lowell, Northeastern

When is BC playing?

Thursday, Sept. 13, 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 14, 6 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 15, 7 p.m.

Where is BC playing?

Malkin Athletic Center, Cambridge, Mass.

Power Gym, Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Cabot Athletic Center, Boston, Mass.

How to Watch:

Thursday night’s game will be broadcasted on ESPN+. BC’s matchup against UMass Lowell will be broadcasted on ACC Network Extra. 

By the Numbers (BC):

7: Win total for the 2017 season. The Eagles have flipped the script this year, posting nine consecutive victories in the front half of this season, a program-best start.

3: Number of straight wins in BC’s last appearance at the Dartmouth Invitational, where the Eagles swept nine sets in a row against Lafayette, Siena, and Dartmouth.

9: A jersey number to keep an eye on. It’s that of Strockis, who is a major contributor for the Eagles, recently earning most valuable player at the Grand Canyon University Invitational. Boasting impressive attack percentages, Strockis will likely be a catalyst for leading the Eagles’ offense, which has impressed so far.

Last Meeting:

BC has gone to five sets the last time it’s faced each of the three teams in the Challenge. The Eagles lost to Harvard and Northeastern in consecutive days last season, but earned a 3-2 victory at their last meeting with UMass Lowell on Sept. 10, 2016.

BC wins if…

It dictates a fast-paced game and minimizes errors. The team must boast an effective defensive system, something that hasn’t been difficult thus far considering the Eagles’ 497 digs this season, a mark that trumps all of their opponents. If McKenzie Morrison and Strokis can continue their brilliant defensive play, while also harnessing the former’s prolific scoring abilities, the Eagles can defeat their toughest opponent in Northeastern and aim to knock off the other two as well.

BC loses if…

It becomes unfocused in lieu of its ACC schedule beginning next week. The Eagles will also have to adjust to three consecutive days of gameplay, the first such stretch of the season, and a mid-week start that’s also a curveball. UMass Lowell is eager for an upset after a disappointing start to the season, so the Eagles must come out of the gate fast, something that’s been key in their nine wins so far this season. BC will need to keep errors to a minimum against a sharp Harvard team that’s eager to duplicate last year’s results. On Saturday, the Eagles will need to keep an eye out for Northeastern’s Kelly Bacon, a standout who played a large role in last year’s victory, as this is arguably BC’s toughest competition of the weekend.

Featured Image by Bradley Smart / Heights Editor