The Muhlenberg volleyball team entered the final match of their regular season versus Dickinson College, tied for seventh in the Centennial Conference (CC). With a victory against the Dickinson Red Devils, the Mules would match them with a conference record of 4-6, but hold the advantage in the head-to-head tiebreaker and clinch the final seed of the CC playoffs. However, with a loss, Dickinson would be the team to clinch the sixth seed and the Mules’ 2023 volleyball season would come to an end.
Fortunately, the Mules– led by Captains Esmae Oehler ‘25 and Christie Marcin ‘26– were able to get the victory, winning 3-1, in this “win or go home” matchup against the Red Devils. In what was in essence a playoff game, given the winner of the match’s season continued and the loser’s ended, Marcin led the charge with 18 kills and a career-high 23 digs. Oehler wasn’t far behind, finishing with ten kills and 23 digs.
Oehler spoke about the team’s mindset coming into the match. “Our coach told us before the game that it isn’t every day we get to play a game of such meaning and to remember why we love volleyball. There was a lot of pressure on us that game, but there was pressure for them as well. I’m so proud of how we played and more so how we came together even when we were down. It’s easy to separate and individualize when things get tough on the court, but we stayed strong and did exactly what we wanted to do, which was play together. I believe the unity we have will take us far.”
The team will now travel to Lancaster, Pa. to take on the Franklin & Marshall (F&M) Diplomats in a rematch of their playoff matchup from last year. The Diplomats have had the upper hand on the Mules over the past few years, as none of the current players on Muhlenberg’s roster have been able to win a set, let alone a match, versus F&M over their careers. In the 2022 CC playoffs, F&M was able to dominate the Mules, holding them to under 16 points in two of the three sets.
The Diplomats continued their dominance this year as they finished with an overall record of 18-6, with three of those losses coming to teams that held national rankings of ninth, eleventh and twelfth.
Despite what’s happened in the past, the team only cares about the future, which is a fresh matchup versus the Diplomats. “Despite losing to F&M earlier in the season, I’m excited for the opportunity to play them again. I don’t think we’re dwelling on the past, but more just trying to enjoy the moment. Our win against Dickinson showed us that if we play loose and have fun, good things will happen. The key to the playoffs is to just enjoy it and I always think of how proud my younger self would be. Post-season volleyball is fun, and we’re blessed to have the opportunity to be here for the second year in a row,” stated Oehler.
If Muhlenberg can escape Lancaster with a victory, they would have to face off against Johns Hopkins University– who has won the CC volleyball championship the past six seasons in a row– in the semi-final matchup.
But as of now, the team’s not thinking about what comes after F&M, as their sole focus right now is getting a win against the Diplomats for the first time since 2017.