The Hopkins volleyball team was looking to make history this past Saturday, as they headed up to southeastern Pennsylvania for a two-game slate. The team was traveling with a 15 game unbeaten streak to start the season, one win shy of the program record. To break the record they had to defeat their conference foes, the Haverford College Fords and the Arcadia University Knights.
Junior setter Natalie Aston described the team’s mentality as they headed into the weekend.
“We were all super pumped to get the opportunity to compete and incorporate some of the skills we had been working on during practice,” she said. “We didn’t necessarily feel any additional pressure from the streak, but playing two solid games validated the work we put in during practice this past week.”
The team’s collective focus was on display early against Haverford. Junior outside hitter Simone Bliss opened the match with back-to-back kills, as the Jays jumped out to an early 4-1 lead. After a quick response from the Fords, Hopkins went on a run that featured kills from senior outside hitter Louisa Kishton and sophomore middle blocker Lauren Anthony, resulting in a 9-4 lead.
Another run from the Jays increased the lead to 13-7, forcing Haverford to call a timeout to regroup. However, whatever the Fords discussed apparently did not work, as Bliss delivered two kills out of the timeout. From that point they never looked back, taking the first set by the score of 25-17.
The second set began with the same level of focus from the Jays, who raced out to a 10-3 lead off of the strength of kills from Bliss, Kishton, senior middle blocker Hannah Korslund and sophomore middle blocker Eleni Panagopoulos. Aston shared how the team focused on this aspect of their game.
“We aimed to establish the tone at the start of each set,” she said. “Our tough serving and consistent passing put a lot of pressure on our opponents and allowed us to run a fast-tempo offense.”
This pressure forced the Fords to give Hopkins 11 points off errors in the second set. The Jays took full advantage, winning the set 25-12.
The strong starts continued in the third set, with Hopkins jumping out to a 6-1 lead, looking to put the Fords away early. However, there seemed to be a little fight left in Haverford, as they clawed their way back to make the score 6-5.
Thankfully junior outside hitter Nicole Hada stepped to the service line and helped the Jays to record six straight points to push the lead to 12-5. There was no more fight left from Haverford, as the Jays increased the lead to 22-13. Aston finished off the match with her third kill of the afternoon, closing the set with a score of 25-14 and giving Hopkins the sweep.
This was the Jays’ six straight win against the Fords. The win pushed their record to 16-0, tying the program-record for the longest unbeaten streak to open the season.
The team then drove over to Glenside, Pa. to face Arcadia. Hopkins faced its first deficit in over a week in the first set, with the Knights taking a modest 3-2 lead to open the match. But of course, the Jays erased the deficit almost immediately, changing the tide of the match, taking a 6-3 lead. Kills from Anthony, Bliss, Aston and Korslund helped them take control of the set, winning it 25-16.
The second and third sets were tightly contested affairs, at least early on. The Knights had evened up the second set at 11, and threatened to take the lead. However, the Jays rattled off seven straight points, and took the set by the score of 25-14.
The third set began with the score tied at eight all, but another 6-0 run by the Jays put the match out of reach. They won the match handily, by a score of 25-15 for their second sweep of the day.
The win broke the record for best start in program history. Aston shared the team’s outlook for the upcoming matches, which feature a number of Centennial Conference battles.
“As a team, we are definitely looking forward to being home for a few games after being on the road for five straight weekends,” she said. “This is a special group of girls, and we are all trying to savor every moment and continue to develop our game.”
The Jays will host Dickinson College on Thursday, Oct. 10 and Muhlenberg College and the University of Mary Washington on Saturday, Oct. 12.