This past weekend the Mules made their Memorial Hall season debut as they hosted the 22nd annual Buttermaker Tournament.
After a slow start to the season that resulted in losing five of their first six matches that were played at Salisbury University and Vassar College, the Mules were looking to avenge their disappointing start to the season and find success on their home court. Starting the season slow before the Buttermaker Tournament is unfamiliar territory to the experienced Mules, as they have only lost two matches heading into the Buttermaker Tournament since 2016.
Seeking a turnaround, the Mules made key adjustments during practices and workouts leading up to the tournament. Outside hitter Laura Boll ‘20 states, “In the week leading up to the tournament, Coach Krampf adjusted our training so that practices focused on specific scenarios in a match. She motivated us by pushing us in practices and encouraging hard work in the gym.”
After a week’s worth of preparation and changing their practice routines, the Mules won their first match against Mount St. Vincent in convincing fashion, outscoring the Dolphins 75-28 in a straight sets victory. Maggie Enestvedt ‘20 and Tara Register ‘20 led the team in kills, while Maya Illovsky ‘21 added 17 digs to her team leading total.
A few hours later, the Mules returned to the court to face Eastern and did not get off to an ideal start, as Eastern dominated the first set and won a back and forth second set. In the third set of the match, the Mules found themselves with their backs up against the wall as they were tied at 21. Thanks to the strong play of Madison Forrest ‘20 and Emma Eglinton ‘23, the Mules were able to prevail and win the third set. The Mules were able to tie the match in the fourth set after staving off a comeback from Eastern late in the set, forcing a fifth set. In a neck-and-neck fifth set with the Mules down 12-11, the Lady Mules responded by scoring four of the final five points of the match thanks to three kills by Enestvedt and an ace from Illovsky, ultimately securing a dramatic come-from-behind victory.
Boll credits the team’s resiliency to the defensive play of Megan Ray ‘22, who limited Eastern’s star outside hitter Caroline Shelby during the final three sets. “Despite losing the first and second games, we did not go into the third timid; we were ready to fight to win. Right off the bat, Megan blocked their strongest hitter, number 9 [Shelby], and then continually shut her down for the rest of the match. I would say that this was a major turning point in the match because it created an energy in all of us and it sparked a fire that carried us through to win the next three games,” Boll said.
After a triumphant day one of the Buttermaker Tournament, the Mules entered Memorial Hall for a morning match against Penn State Abington to kick off the tournament’s final day. The Mules continued their dominant play by beating Penn State Abington 3-1, with Muhlenberg outscoring the Nittany Lions 100-16. Enestvedt, Forest and Alycia Long ‘21 led the Mules and kills, while Gabrielle Neuman ‘20 and Eglinton led the way in assists. The final match of the tournament came against Stockton, who was seeking revenge after losing a five-set match against the Mules in last year’s Buttermaker. Stockton came out firing and ended the Mules’ three-game winning streak by winning in straight sets.
Despite the tough ending to the tournament, the Mules have climbed their way back into the win column and are inching closer to .500. A successful showing at the Buttermaker Tournament has the Mules looking to build on their momentum from the weekend heading into conference play. “We’re going to keep pushing,” Boll stated. “Every time we step into the gym we know that we have the opportunity to develop our skills, and we aim to get one percent better day by day. So long as we continue to strive toward success, nothing will be able to get in our way but ourselves,” she added.
The Mules begin conference play this Saturday in Lancaster, PA against foe Franklin & Marshall, followed by another road conference matchup against Haverford. They then will close out September with a doubleheader against conference foe Dickinson and nearby rival DeSales at Memorial Hall on the 28th.
On Tuesday, Sept. 17, the ladies faced Moravian and brought their record to 5-6.