Volleyball sets history by beginning season with 20-0 record

By ERIC LYNCH | October 17, 2019

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On Saturday morning, the Hopkins volleyball team was 18-0. These 18 straight victories were tied for the longest winning streak in Hopkins volleyball history. The 2017 team had also reached eighteen in a row, but that number had never been surpassed. With two games that weekend, the team had a chance to cement themselves in Hopkins history. Both games took place at the University’s own Goldfarb Gymnasium. 

Junior opposite hitter Morgan Wu commented on the team’s mentality with history on the line. 

“We’ve never really put a huge emphasis on records or streaks, and this whole season we’ve done a really good job with preparing well for each game in terms of scouting and strategy,” she said. “So we approached these games the same way and sought to bring our energy and our game knowing that the other side will look to bring all they have too.”

The first game was against the Muhlenberg College Mules. Hopkins started out strong, with junior outside hitter Simone Bliss scoring the first two kills. Hopkins continued by winning the first seven points of the first set. Unfortunately, a service error gave Muhlenberg their first point. But the Blue Jays weren’t kidding around, as they went on to score the next seven points unanswered. Muhlenberg never got anything going, and the first set ended 25-8 on a service ace by junior setter Natalie Aston. It looked like Hopkins was going to make history.

In the second set, however, Muhlenberg put up more resistance. Muhlenberg adjusted to the challenge and found themselves up 6-5. The Blue Jays do not shy away from a tough set, though, and sophomore middle blocker/opposite hitter Eleni Panagopoulos capped off a 4-0 run with a service ace. 

After Muhlenberg fortunately got three points off of service and attack errors, Hopkins went on another 4-0 run, bringing the score up to 18-9. The rest of the set saw both teams trading points until senior outside hitter Louisa Kishton scored a service ace to end the game 25-17. Although the second set was tougher, the Blue Jays were only one set away from the new win-streak record. 

A 3-0 start kept the Blue Jays optimistic, as Panagopoulos was able to get yet another kill. Muhlenberg did not want to be on the receiving end of another beating, and after some back-and-forth scoring, the score was 10-8 Hopkins. The Blue Jays found their groove and went on another short scoring run when a Panagopoulos kill brought the score to 15-9. Muhlenberg retaliated one more time before Hopkins scored an absurd nine unanswered points. With that, the score was 24-12. There was no hope for Muhlenberg to turn things around, and the game ended 25-13 on another kill from Panagopoulos.

This 2019 Hopkins team had now cemented themselves into the history books, with an incredible 19-0 starting record. This was also the seventh time in a row that Hopkins beat an opponent without losing a single set. Panagopoulos led the team with 13 kills, and Aston finished with 30 assists. The team could celebrate its incredible start, but the day was not over, as there was one game left to play. 

Wu discussed the team’s mentality during each match.

“It really comes down to how well we run our system and how much of a flow we get into — we’ve been training to develop and bring a better killer instinct into every game we’ve played this season,” she said. “We’ve been doing a good job keeping each other up through trust and positive hype. Even when the score is tighter, we can really rely on each other and know that everyone will grind through to pull away, and once we pull away, we keep working hard to really shut the other team out of the game.”

The Blue Jays took on the University of Mary Washington Eagles next. This first set proved to be difficult for Hopkins at first. The Eagles had fought their way to an 8-6 lead, but Hopkins did not want their streak of sweeps to end. The Blue Jays followed with eight unanswered points, featuring four kills by Panagopoulos. A small run by the Eagles brought the score to 14-12 Hopkins. But Hopkins was in the zone, and the Eagles had no way to disrupt them. The set ended 25-15 on a kill from Bliss.

The next set began with three straight points from the Blue Jays. After the Eagles scored on a service error, the score was 6-4 Hopkins. The Blue Jays found their flow by scoring the next five points. After a timeout by Mary Washington, the score was 19-13 in the Blue Jays’ favor. Hopkins scored six more points unanswered and won the set 25-13 on an Eagles’ attack error.

With their 20th straight win and eighth straight sweep in sight, the Blue Jays had their eyes on the win. The third set started well. A 3-0 run with two service aces from Bliss brought the score to 5-2. Later in the set, another 3-0 run made the score 11-7. A five-point run capped off by a kill from Bliss permanently shifted momentum in the Blue Jays’ favor. A 4-0 run and some more back-and-forth scoring ended the game at 25-13. Hopkins had finished their 20-0 start and their eighth straight sweep.

Panagopoulos scored 16 kills, and Bliss got five service aces, a career high for her. If the team wins three more games in the Goldfarb Gymnasium, they will tie the volleyball program’s record for most wins in a row at home. Next weekend, the team will have a chance to work towards that goal when they take on Swarthmore College and Susquehanna University in Goldfarb on Saturday. 

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