Volleyball seems unable to lose as they ascend to 11-0 record

By ALEX FORLENZA | September 26, 2019

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HOPKINSSPORTS.COM Despite going to a fourth set against the 24th-ranked Ithaca, Hopkins still couldn’t be beat.

If you haven’t heard yet, the Hopkins volleyball team is very good.

Hopkins won both games in tournament play this weekend, pushing them to 11-0 on the year. 

They beat the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Tigers in three sets, and then they beat the Ithaca College Bombers in four sets. 

After winning back-to-back three-set matches last week, the Jays still came into the tournament looking to improve. Sophomore middle Eleni Panagopoulos explained the team’s preparation for the matches. “We really worked on cleaning up our communication and movements so that we could get better touches,” she said. 

The tournament started against RIT, whom the Jays beat 25-21, 25-18 and 25-11. 

The first set started off tightly contested until back-to-back errors from RIT started a 7-0 run for the Jays. 

This led them to a 10-point advantage. 

As Hopkins went up 16-6, RIT decided to call a timeout to try and find a way to overcome the unstoppable Hopkins offense. 

RIT did fight back, bringing it to a two-point game later in the set. 

But Hopkins held on, winning 25-21 on a kill by junior setter Natalie Aston.

The second set started off with RIT jumping ahead 3-0. Junior outside hitter Morgan Wu was able to hit five straight serves without RIT scoring a single point. 

Nevertheless, the game kept going back and forth. Then a block from Panagopoulos gave Hopkins the lead. 

From there, the Jays were the Jays, never looking back and winning the set 25-18. 

Then the last set ended with the largest point differential of the three. 

The set started with a 5-1 advantage for Hopkins, which caused RIT to take another timeout as they looked in vain for a way to make a comeback. 

The scoring didn’t stop there, as the Blue Jays soon found themselves up 11-2. 

RIT never fought back too hard, and the match ended with a 25-11 third set.

Hopkins had a .33 hitting percentage to RIT’s .12, and RIT had 19 errors to the Blue Jays’ seven. RIT was overmatched. 

Panagopoulos generated a team-high 20 points on 15 kills, four aces and one block. 

Aston led the team with 26 assists and no errors, and Wu led the team with 14 digs. 

Against Ithaca, there was a little more resistance. 

After a short 3-0 run by Hopkins, the first set of this match became tightly contested. 

It was within a couple of points until a kill from senior outside hitter Louisa Kishton caused a 7-7 tie mid-set.

Then the Jays took the lead and held onto it tightly. Four unanswered points led to Hopkins taking the first set 25-16. 

They were aided by the numerous errors Ithaca committed during the ending run. 

The second set started off quickly for Ithaca. They jumped out to an early 10-3 lead. Hopkins then started to get back into the set, cutting the lead to 11-9 at one point. 

That was the closest the set got, as Ithaca followed this with a run of four straight scores. Ithaca held off the Jays for the rest of the set, winning 25-21. 

The near opposite start occurred in the third set. Hopkins found themselves up 5-0 to start the set. The lead grew to 12-2 thanks in part to Ithaca’s attacking errors. Then the Jays kept their foot on the gas and went on another run, pushing the score up to 24-8. Everyone was involved in creating this enormous lead. 

Ithaca made the score look a little better at the end by rallying for a 6-0 run, but Hopkins won 25-14 on a service error. 

In the last set the Jays again jumped out to an early 7-2 lead. After that lead, Ithaca never quite caught up to the Jays. The end of the set was characterized by back-and-forth scoring on each side. 

The set ended when Panagopoulos scored two straight aces to help Hopkins win the set 25-17. With that the Jays won the match 3-1.

Again, Hopkins more than doubled their opponent’s hitting percentage (Hopkins with .27, Ithaca with .13). Junior outside hitter Simone Bliss led the team in kills with 12, and Aston led the team in digs and assists with 12 and 34 respectively. 

On the year Hopkins is 11-0. Last year they got off to a similar 11-0 start, but the Jays aren’t letting the hype get to them. 

Panagopoulos discussed the team’s mindset looking forward to the rest of the season. 

“We still have a lot of opponents to take care of and have been taking things one game at a time,” she stated. 

Despite her down-to-earth attitude, its no secret that the Centennial Conference, and perhaps even the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament, are looking within reach.

Looking ahead, the Jays will look to stay undefeated when they play next Friday at Juniata College. 

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