Volleyball team ends season with Sweet 16 loss

The Trinity Tigers volleyball team came into this season with high expectations, and while they did not reach the ultimate goal of winning a national championship, it was a season to be proud of.

The team won 36 matches, which is the most since 2002 and two shy of the school record of 38.

After winning the conference tournament two weekends ago, the Tigers began the NCAA Division III playoffs last Friday with a 3-1 match victory over University of California at Santa Cruz. After the win, the Tigers faced conference rival Southwestern University for the second consecutive weekend. After going down 2-0 as they had the previous weekend, the Tigers once again made a dramatic comeback to take a five-set victory. The match included an incredible fifth set where each team had multiple chances to win the match.

“We always felt that we could make the comeback and win the match. The belief was there”¦the match was incredible and the fifth game was amazing where both teams played incredible,” said head coach Julie Jenkins.

Following the dramatic win over Southwestern was the Regional Final against the region’s top-seed, California Lutheran University. Despite coming out and dominating the first game, Trinity ended up falling 3-1 in a heartbreaking loss. While the team was clearly disappointed that they did not advance further in the playoffs, they are using the loss to fuel the team.

“The Sweet 16 is still pretty good, so I am sure the loss will just motivate us even more to win out next season,” said junior outside hitter Maggie Emodi.

Emodi was named the school’s 17th All-American of all time after having already won the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year award and reaching her second consecutive all-South Region team. Junior middle blocker Erin Cusenbary was an honorable mention for the All-American team and a member of the all-Region team. Junior outside hitter Layne Hubbard was named an honorable mention for the all-Region team. All will return as seniors for the squad next season. Coach Jenkins was also named the coach for the all-Region squad.

“I know the team next year is going to be tremendous. Absolutely amazing,” Jenkins said.

Despite the loss, the team remains proud of their achievements. The team reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2009. That year, Trinity defeated Southwestern in the Sweet 16 to advance to the NCAA quarterfinals, where they lost to Juniata College (Pa.).

“Even though we didn’t win our last game this weekend, I’m incredibly proud of how the team performed. I think we all played our hearts out, and it showed in how close the games were,” Cusenbary said.

The Tigers are graduating only four seniors: middle blocker Jana Tucker, setter Maryn Swierc, middle blocker Kelsey Daniel and defensive specialist Leslie Green. Next year, the squad will have six seniors, three juniors, six sophomores and a yet to be determined first-year class that are primed to continue the success the squad reached this year.