JMU volleyball

Coach Steinbrecher talking to the team during a timeout.

The Northeastern Huskies knew they were in for a long night when the third set came around Thursday night. After a weak start, the Dukes rallied and stormed head-first at the visitors toward a 20-25, 25-17, 25-22, 25-23 victory.

Northeastern started the match strong, fighting for every point. The early plays featured long rallies in which the Huskies came out on top. Northeastern lead by as many as seven points at one time.

However, the Dukes’ wheels began turning midway through the first set and brought the lead down to five points. The set ended 25-20 in favor of the Huskies.

“Maybe we were a little excited about the first CAA game,” senior setter Tilbe Yaglioglu said. “It’s a team that hasn’t been like this the past seasons. There were [only] two players we recognized from the years before, so they were playing and running a new game.”

In the interim between the first and second set, the team recollected itself. The Dukes’ focus turned toward their scouting report on the Huskies and how they could adapt to the looks they were being given.

“We know going in what they’re going to hit,” junior outside hitter Kelly Vahos said. “We picked [ourselves] up and looked back at the scouting report.”

The Dukes came out in the second set looking like a different team. A renewed intensity took the place of visible frustration. The Dukes would soon be firing on all cylinders.

JMU stole the momentum by going on a 3-0 run to begin the set. Crafty points by junior setter Sarah Martin coupled with kills by junior middle blocker M’Kaela White and senior outside hitter Bryn Recker, who scored the set-point, gave the Dukes the lead. JMU won the second set 25-17.

“I used to be a hitter,” Martin said. “I just like [scoring kills] because it keeps everyone on their toes and it definitely gives my hitters an opportunity later to be one on one and not have them double block them.”

Despite the Dukes’ wiles, the Huskies stayed focused and kept themselves in the match. Soon the score was tied in the third set, with both sides making highlight reel plays.

There were many plays with long rallies in which both teams barely kept the ball in bound. Both teams seemed an even match for each other and traded the lead multiple times.

The Dukes’ defense found their rhythm and began disrupting the Huskies outside hitters. White recorded multiple blocks and scored the third set-point, 25-22.

The beginning of the fourth set was a series of rapid lead changes until the Huskies pulled ahead. For a time, it seemed Northeastern would force a fifth set, but the Dukes dug into the lead.

“It’s definitely a hard challenge [maintaining a positive mindset],” Martin said. “But having the teammates that I have, the energy we have, and thinking [point-to-point] trying not to dwell on the past [allows us to stay positive].”

The Dukes won the fourth set 25-23. The team is now 9-3 and plays Saturday against Hofstra at noon in the Sinclair Gymnasium.

Contact Michael Turner at turnermb@dukes.jmu.edu. For more sports coverage, follow the Breeze Sports desk on twitter @theBreezeSports.

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