Under the spotlights of Memorial Hall, in front of loads of fans and relatives, and on the imposing gray and black logo, the Muhlenberg volleyball team (MVB) competed in their opening Centennial Conference matchup against the Gettysburg Bullets on Friday, Sept. 29.
The Mules fell to the Bullets 3-1, winning the second set after dropping the first and unable to capitalize in the third and fourth sets. Every point was decided fiercely by both teams, with neither wanting to give up an inch. The game had its ebbs and flows, but the team that dominated the net seemed to have the upper hand at any point in the match. The Mules found their success by complementing net control with covering the short hits well, forcing Gettysburg to hit toward the back of the court, generating many unforced errors from the Bullets.
When asked about the match, outside hitter Esmae Oehler ‘25 commented, “Our team has been doing a really good job of terminating off of serve receive, and defensively, we have been really scrappy and give all effort in the back row.” She continued by emphasizing aspects the team wants to work on. “We really want to work on our mental toughness when we are in difficult and high-pressure situations on the court. Offensively, we want to work on being efficient and limiting our errors.”
Effort in the trenches and sacrificing the highlight reel plays for nitty-gritty work has been a staple for this Muhlenberg volleyball group. “Our team has been very effective on defense this year,” explained Christina Marcin ‘26. “Everyone puts in so much effort in the back row and it shows on the court and the scoreboard. Not only has our back row been on fire, but our blocking this year has made a huge difference in our previous games and will continue to set us apart from other teams in our conference.”
This defeat aside, the Mules have started their season well, going into their next conference matchup at 10-5 as of Sept. 30, with the intangible coherence between players shining: “Our team chemistry is off the charts. We are a tight group, and I think this year we have so many leaders on the team which has been a huge part of our success. It’s difficult to lose, especially when you believe you can win. But I can’t wait to see how we overcome this obstacle and respond to the challenge.” said Oehler.
Marcin echoed a similar sentiment: “The chemistry on this team is one of my favorite things about MVB. We’re all so supportive and really want the best for our teammates on and off the court. It’s unbelievably fun to play with these girls, and I can’t wait to get deeper into conference play with them.” The squad is eager to build upon the momentum from earlier victories and use the low moments to grow together.
One goal for the team this year is to improve their playoff seeding from last year and avenge their first-round exit. The Centennial Conference is one of the best in Division III, and the Mules are excited for the road ahead after taking a strong Gettysburg team to tight four sets. “Conference play by nature is a little higher pressure than regular play,” said Oehler. “It feels really good to be back in conference play. I can’t wait to see our team step up to tough competition. I wholeheartedly believe that this team is destined for greatness.”
The Mules will follow their match against Ursinus by traveling to Baltimore, Md., to take on defending champions Johns Hopkins on Saturday, Oct. 7.