Marshall volleyball defeats McLean on Senior Night

Mixed emotions carried the night as Highlanders found spirit through a tough match

The team comes together before the match to share words of encouragement and set the tone for the night.

On October 3rd, crowns and boas were scattered across the stands as the pep band matched the fans’ electric energy. Dressed in red royalty, the raucous student section welcomed the true queens of the night: the McVolleyball seniors. Everyone was eagerly awaiting the McLean Highlanders’ varsity volleyball team rematch versus the Marshall Statesmen.

“I am a bit nervous…but also excited because we have been building up a lot of hype for this game,” said senior Abby Chung. “I have a lot of friends and family coming to support me tonight and the team has been working hard on making it a special night for the seniors.”

Chung has been a part of the McVolleyball program since her freshman year, along with five out of the other six seniors being celebrated.

“I’m really glad that we all get to celebrate together,” Chung said. “We’ve made so many memories the past four years…so [we] have a lot to take away from the program.”

While an emotional night awaited the team, celebrating all the hard work of the seniors was not the only thing on their mind. This would be the second time McVolleyball faced the Statesmen coming off a loss, although they were optimistic.

“We’re glad to be playing them at home this time and now we know what to expect coming into it,” Chung said.

Head coach Samantha Stewart followed the McVolleyball Senior Night tradition of starting all of the six active seniors on the court. This would pose a challenge because this group of six was not a usual lineup. Due to the limited number of seniors, players were put in positions they didn’t traditionally play.

“It took us some time to find rhythm and communication in an unfamiliar line up,” senior captain Estelle Harnisch said.

Sadly, time is not a luxury in volleyball, and the time taken to smooth out the new lineup caused the team to let up an early 1-8 lead. The seniors put up a fight, continuing to swing strong, but turned out to be no match against Marshall’s strong and controlled defense. Despite the 11-25 loss in the first set, spirits were high as the seniors and Stewart alike brushed off mistakes with lighthearted laughter.

The second set began with a line up much more familiar to the team and McLean took the first point of the set. However, the Statesmen quickly took back the lead. The Highlanders were able to keep them on their toes, playing a much cleaner set and keeping the score close. Bold offense from both teams had the fans on their feet when Marshall took their first timeout of the match, McLean trailing close behind at 18-21.

While the second set ended in a disappointing 19-25 loss for the Highlanders, you wouldn’t know walking into the gym right after the end of the match as players and fans danced together to the “Cupid Shuffle.”

This energy seemed to dissipate quickly, as Highlanders went into the third set frantic, putting everything they had on the floor. Their scrappiness ended up serving the team well, as a series of kills and aces brought McLean to take their first lead of the night. With unpredictable plays from the front row, the Highlanders held onto their lead all the way to the end of the set, winning 25-22.

An awakening was felt across the gym as the band proudly played the fight song, fans got back on their feet, and cheering gave life to a rainy evening in McLean.

“The energy was so much better than usual,” Harnisch said.

Unfortunately, the energy was not enough to carry the Highlanders to victory. After a back and forth set that had multiple lead changes, strong defense and commitment up to the end from both teams, the Highlander fell to the Statesmen in the fourth and final set 20-25.

“It was some of the best playing if not the best I’ve seen from [the team] all season,” Stewart said. “It was fun and I am proud of them regardless of the outcome.”

The Highlanders hope to bounce back from the loss when they face Langley at home Thursday, October 6th.