The Royals split their final two games of the season, resulting in a four-way tie for the final playoff spot with Emory and Henry College (EHC), Shenandoah University (SU), and Randolph College. The first tiebreaker in the ODAC for this kind of situation is to look at the combined records against all tied teams, which found EMU and Randolph College 2-1 and SU and EHC 1-2. Then, since there was still a tie between EMU and Randolph, the next tiebreaker was direct head-to-head record, and since EMU beat Randolph this year, the Royals earned themselves a seat at the ODAC table, snagging the eighth seed and securing a date with the first seed Randolph-Macon College on Wednesday, Nov. 1.
The Royals put themselves firmly in the playoff picture Thursday, Oct. 26 in their second-to-last match of the season, rolling over Mary Baldwin in a 3-0 sweep. This was their last home game of the season, and the last one in Yoder Arena for the squad’s five seniors: Sam Jacob, Jasmine Johnson, Skyler Johnson, Alexa Weeks and Janna Williams. It was a victorious send-off in front of their home crowd for these women, as they’ve each enjoyed a rich four years with the Royals.
The seniors led the team in Thursday night’s match to secure the win against Mary Baldwin, with a bit of drama at the end. In a tense third set, the Royals found themselves down 24-23, needing a point to stay alive in the set. The Royals responded by winning three straight points, with junior Maria Yoder hitting the final kill to win the set and the match.
Sophomore Kate Kauffman contributed 18 digs throughout the match, and first-year Alex Raber hit eight kills with no errors. It was a team win for the Royals, with the women averaging 16 kills a set in their relentless offense.
The next evening, the Royals lined up against Bridgewater for the final match of the season. A win outright would have secured them a playoff spot, but a loss would make their ODAC Tournament hopes uncertain, as they would have to rely on other dominoes falling in their favor. The Royals ultimately played a good game against Bridgewater, but ended up taking the loss against the Eagles. This left EMU waiting for the results after the match, with the seniors hoping they would get to play at least one more time in their collegiate career. They did not have to wait long, however, as the Royals found out in the locker room that they would be advancing to the playoffs, facing off against ODAC champion Randolph-Macon on Nov. 1.
“I’m ecstatic for them, especially for this group of seniors,” Coach Carrie Bert said on Friday night, after clinching their playoff seed. “They’ve worked hard, they’ve given thousands of hours to this program, they have been dedicated right from the start as freshmen, and I’m so happy that we get to go on [to the playoffs] next week.”