NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- There are goals, and there are missions. Emory without apology, answers to the latter call.
“We didn’t come here to win [a match], we came here to win the national championship,” senior middle hitter Cat McGrath said Friday after the Eagles whipped Williams, 3-1, in the Division III quarterfinals at Christopher Newport University.
“That’s what we’re here to do.”
A year after Emory fell to eventual champion Calvin in the national semifinals, Leah Jacobs, McGrath’s senior partner in leading the Eagles’ relentless attack, confirmed her team’s title-or-bust mentality.
The Eagles resoundingly returned to semifinals, routing the Ephs 25-16, 25-16, 26-28, 25-17 behind a season-best hitting percentage of .453.
Subtracting Williams’ four blocks, Emory, which entered third in the nation at .273, committed just five attack errors while connecting on 71 kills.
Jacobs drilled 21 kills with only two errors, McGrath added a perfect 10. The onslaught propelled the Eagles (38-3) into a 5 p.m. match Saturday against Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
The Pointers (33-4) survived a five-set contest against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, rallying in the fifth set to clinch a 16-14 decision.
“It’s hard to believe we hit .453 and only had nine hitting errors,” said Emory coach Jenny McDowell, whose team is in its 19th consecutive NCAA tournament.
“Again, it’s a credit to [junior setter] Sydney Miles. She finds a way to get the ball in the hands of the right people.”
Miles, like Jacobs an All-American, entered the day third in the country in assists and added 56 more. That overall efficiency propelled Emory into its fourth national semifinals in the past seven seasons.
The Eagles won the national title in ’08 but lost to Calvin in the finals in ’10. That makes McDowell well-familiar with the pleasure and the pain that accompanies this stage of play.
But McDowell said a sense of rare accomplishment is her overarching emotion whatever happens the rest of the weekend.
“There’s over 400 programs, so I’m pretty proud of our record,” said McDowell, who has been head coach at Emory since 1996. “People say it’s harder to maintain, to stay at this level, that’s why I’m so proud of this program.
“Only one team can win and we’re gonna give it our best shot.”
That much is assumed, said McGrath, although she expects Emory to ‘maintain’ all the way through hoisting a trophy after Sunday’s final.
“We excited, we’re ready,” McGrath said. “Last year we went to the final four and unfortunately fell short. We know what that feeling is and we know we’re not going to let that happen again.”