sweep through the annual Blue Jay Invitational on opening weekend, as well as breezing past St. Mary's (Md.) College on Tuesday night, the Lady Jays volleyball team traveled to Cleveland, Ohio to play in the Marcia French Memorial Tournament.
The Jays used a combination of experienced leadership as well as youthful talent and exuberance to race out to a perfect 5-0 record after the first week of the season under second year head coach Matt Troy.
Hopkins kicked off the tournament weekend with a hard fought loss against tournament co-host Case Western Reserve, falling 3-2.
The Lady Jays continued their hot play, for example, Game One against the Spartans: 25-23. Despite dropping the next two games without much of a fight, Hopkins answered back strongly with a big fourth set win to force a dramatic fifth game, though they fell 15-9.
The Blue Jays were led by senior star outside-hitter, Melissa Cole, who tallied her third double-double of the early season (12 kills, 14 digs). Meanwhile, the emerging freshmen twin-tandem of Megan and Katie Schwarz combined for 24 kills and 19 digs, with Katie recording the second double-double of her rookie campaign.
To close out Friday, the Lady Jays fell to Bluffton University, 3-0, in what was a lopsided affair. However, each game of the match was hotly contested.
After dropping the first game, 26-24, the Jays ran out of steam, despite not losing either of the second or third games by more than five points (25-20, 25-23).
The bright spot of the match for Hopkins was the superb passing by their duo of setters in junior co-captain Becky Paynter and freshman Mariel Metalios, who recorded 17 and 15 assists, respectively.
Tournament play for Hopkins continued on Saturday when they took on Thiel College of Greenville, PA. After the Tomcats took the first game of the match, 25-21, the Jays responded with a closely contested second game win, 25-23, drawing the match even at a set apiece.
However, it was all Thiel from that point on as Hopkins struggled to find a groove, dropping the third and fourth sets for their third loss in two days.
JHU fought off a strong attack from the Tomcats all game long with freshman Meagan Donohoe and junior Amelia Thomas racking up 23 and 22 digs, respectively. It was a season-high amount of digs for Donohoe, while Thomas stretched her total as the team-leader in digs.
Many undisciplined teams would have taken this early weekend disappointment and mailed in the final match of the tournament, wanting to move on with the rest of the season. However, this was not the case for the determined Blue Jays.
Hopkins played their best volleyball of the weekend in their fourth match in two days against Oberlin College, defeating the Yeomen in three sets: 25-23, 25-7, 25-13.
"The tournament in Ohio was a learning experience," said Thomas, a co-captain and libero on this year's squad. "[Winning the final match] was very encouraging because it showed we have what it takes to be a winning team."
Due to her stellar play throughout the weekend, Cole, also a co-captain on this year's team, was named to the all-tournament team. The senior outside hitter accrued 40 kills and 49 digs over the course of the four matches.
This merely added to her team-leading total of kills and second-leading total of digs in the young season. However, this is nothing new as she continues to pile up outstanding numbers that have come with her brilliant career at Hopkins.
Despite this weekend's struggles, the Lady Jays push forward with a 6-3 record and the confidence that they have what it takes to compete for a Centennial Conference Championship.
Thomas reflected on her team's unified belief in one another, stating "our main goal for the season is to win Conferences."
Attaining such a goal, however, will take more than just talent as the Lady Jays welcome 12 freshmen to the program, many of whom will be assuming prominent roles in the team's success this season.
As a result, upperclassmen like Thomas have already made sacrifices for the team, including the second-year captain switching from outside hitter to libero.
"My court sense and defense have always been the strongest part of my game," Thomas said. "Switching to libero seemed like the best fit for the team."
It is selfless leadership like this that will take the Blue Jays to the Centennial playoffs and beyond.
On Wednesday, against Charles Street rival College of Notre Dame, the Lady Jays found their groove once again, sweeping the Gators with ease: 25-2, 25-3, 25-6. Hopkins was led by freshman setter, Mariel Mattelios, serving 10 consecutive points to begin the match.
To start the second set, Cole scored 17 consecutive points, and in the third, the Jays went on a 18-1 run to finish off Notre Dame. Donohoe had a team-high six kills in the contest.
Hopkins will get back to action on Saturday, kicking off conference play against Washington in Chestertown, Md.
Though the season is young, and the road is long, Thomas and the Lady Jays know that with the correct combination of talent, leadership and hard work, they will be there in the end with a chance to capture their goal of a conference championship.