ST. LOUIS — Between them, Eastern’s seniors — setter Maria Horning and outside hitter Courtney Reinhold — have collected eight All-America honors in four years after the pair was named once again recognized among the best players in the nation on Thursday.
The duo went where no teammates in the history of NCAA volleyball, regardless of level, have gone, having earned four consecutive All-America honors.
“It has been a great comfort factor,” Eastern coach Mark Birwistle said. “I sit on the bench and just enjoy watching them. They’re terrific athletes. They’re super competitive and I get a front row [seat].”
Birwistle must have been very comfortable as Reinhold’s 15 kills were tied for best on the team Friday and Horning added 45 assists in the quarterfinal win against St. Thomas (Minn.) 26-24, 25-18, 25-19.
Eastern will next play in a national semifinal on Saturday against either California Lutheran (29-6) or Wittenburg (34-3).
When Eastern (36-2) is in possession of the volleyball, two things are almost certain: Whether it’s Reinhold or any of the Eagles’ other hitters, they’re likely going to get the perfect set from Horning.
When that happens, if it happens to go to Reinhold, it’s likely going to make its way into the scorebook as a kill.
“I always say it’s the setter’s job to get the ball over the net and, from there, it’s my responsibility,” Reinhold said. “The great thing about playing with Maria as a teammate — three years in club and now our fourth year in college — is that I know where the ball’s going to be every time.”
Reinhold leads Eastern with 534 kills while Horning’s 1,346 assists are far and away tops on the team.
One thing both players were quick to point out is that Eastern is the farthest thing from a two-woman show.
“We just have a special connection,” Horning said. “This really is a team effort, though. The girls on the team know that Courtney and I [have a connection], but without the team, we would not be where we are now.”
The win on Friday puts Eastern into the national semifinals. It is a first for any team at the school.
They both said they know if the Eagles are going to get past the semifinals and, hopefully, on to the national championship, it will take everyone on the team’s best effort to get there because, to a player, Horning said that the team knows who’s behind them.
“There is a lot of support and the campus is excited,” Horning said. “We’re extremely happy and we want to go out and represent them.”