This past weekend, the Freeman Center was the host for the annual Captains Classic volleyball tournament. The Captains hosted three other teams between Friday and Saturday’s competition, two of which, #3 Juniata College and #4 University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, were nationally ranked inside the top five. The action kicked off with the Captains playing against the BluGold of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Despite a strong start in the first set, the BluGold were able to rally, and scored seven of eight straight points to claim the lead and create some distance for themselves. From there, the Captains were unable to find their rhythm, being forced to use two timeouts early in an effort to slow the momentum of Eau Claire. Undeterred, Christopher Newport responded with some hard hitting offense of their own in the front row via picture-perfect sets from freshman #3 Sammy Carroll. The front row from the home side continued a strong showing by showering and slowing the BluGold attack with blocks, resulting in senior outside hitter #20 Katie Piper securing the set winning kill. Wisconsin-Eau Claire reiterated why they were coming into the season ranked number four in the nation and rattled off seven straight points, once more forcing head coach Lindsay Birch to use both of her timeouts early in the set. After the timeouts, the Captains were able to win back a few points, but once again the BluGold regained control and took the third set. During the fourth set, both teams traded small runs, scoring as many as five consecutive points in a row without an answer. Unfortunately, unforced errors plagued Christopher Newport and stifled any attempt at building a lead for themselves. The Captains came as close as two points to close the gap, but a tactical timeout called by Eau Claire was enough to close out the remaining points and start the season off with a win.
Despite the loss, the Captains volleyball team had a chance at redemption that night as they were set to face another top ranked team with Juniata in a prime time matchup. With some promotion on social media beforehand, the Captains Faithful showed up in full force, packing over 700 fans in the Freeman Center to cheer on the hosts. A strong attack led by seniors #14 Katie Crofford and #15 Riley Garrison, who racked up fourteen kills apiece, accounted for just under half of the team’s total for the match. The Captains started the first set off by trading blows with the Eagles, but neither side was able to gain a substantial advantage over the other. Sophomore defensive specialist and libero, #22 Rebecca Frey, closed the set out from behind the line, serving for the final three points despite another late timeout from Juniata College. The momentum stayed with the Captains through the break between sets as they jumped out to a convincing seven point lead. Juniata rallied back and were able to tie things up with help from a strong offensive showing by #22 Morgan Edwards, but Carroll brought the second to a close with another ace.
The game shifted in favor of the Eagles as #14 Victoria Taylor blasted five kills too much for the Captains’ defense. Christopher Newport was able to hold off two set points in an attempt to regain control of the match and complete the sweep over Juniata, but succumbed to Edwards’ fifth kill in the set which secured the Eagles their first set of the match. The Captains came out determined to finish the match in four sets and grabbed a four point lead about halfway through the set. The lead would be maintained throughout most of the set until Juniata caught the Captains in a difficult rotation and, in the process of holding off two back-to-back match points, seized the lead for themselves. #10 Megan O’Hara was able to squeak a shot by the Juniata back line to score their twenty-fifth point and, for the moment, keep the hopes of the Captains alive of finishing the match without heading into the final fifth set. Unfortunately, the hard work didn’t quite pay off, as in the end Juniata College picked up two points off a swing from Taylor and a Captains’ attacking error and forced another set. The Captains, with the chance to defeat one of the top teams in the country, fueled by a section of the Marching Captains, a vivacious student section and the fans in attendance, would take the court for the final time that night. Three kills for the Captains and a pair of Eagle errors gave Christopher Newport a 5-1 advantage, forcing an early timeout to be called. The timeout proved to be beneficial as Juniata started to build momentum, but any momentum was snuffed out as #1 Hope Webb set Crofford up for a kill, sparking another spree for the home squad. The Captains would earn their final five points from four different players and claim victory for themselves.
The following afternoon was another opportunity for the Captains to put on a display showing why they are one of the best teams in the country as they took on Marymount University. The Captains convincingly pulled out the victory with a straight set sweep. During the display, Garrison registered a superior performance on both sides of the ball, disrupting the Saints’ attack six times and firing off the second highest number of kills at nine while swinging with over a 42 percent success rate. A stellar defensive effort from #8 Theresa Buscemi, Marymount’s libero, kept the Saints in the match to a certain extent, as she contributed 21 digs to the cause, her highest tally of the weekend.
Six different servers picked up eleven total aces for the Captains including three stemming from Crofford while she also peppered Marymount consistently with twenty five swings, the most out of any Captains on the day. Following the close of the tournament, Piper and Frey were added to the All-Tournament team.
Looking forward, some notable opponents for the Captains on the upcoming road trips are the #1 ranked defending national champions, Emory University and #2 ranked Calvin College.
~Austin Urch, Staff Writer~