ASHLAND, Va. – In head coach Bill Rogers' 16th season, Randolph-Macon women's volleyball continued the success it has seen in recent memory and even dating as far back as when Rogers took over the program. Finishing the season at 23-7, the team accomplished more unbelievable feats in 2017 than ever before.
The season began with three straights wins in the Virginia Wesleyan tournament during the first weekend of September. At 3-0, the team then stared down the #7 team in the nation, Mary Washington, and came away with the win 3-1. Returning to Fredericksburg that weekend, R-MC got some of its most quality competition of the season, going 1-3 against four teams that would eventually be ranked in their respective regions: Berry, Susquehanna, Johns Hopkins and Averett. R-MC's lone win of the weekend came over Averett in five sets.
After that weekend's losses, the Yellow Jackets would not lose again in the month of September, beating five Old Dominion Athletic Conference opponents and three non-conference foes in remaining games.
The month of October got started off the same way that September did, with a win at Hollins. But a date with the Juniata Eagles did not go R-MC's way as the Yellow Jackets forced the country's number 12 team into a five set battle that was eventually won by Juniata.
The road didn't get easier for R-MC. Its next match was against the ODAC's #2 squad, Washington and Lee. The Yellow Jackets came out on top of the first set, but then lost the next two. That's when the Yellow Jackets rallied to win the next two sets and leave Lexington with a crucial conference victory.
From there, Randolph-Macon hosted the remainder of its ODAC schedule and rushed through Bridgewater, Guilford, Emory & Henry and Virginia Wesleyan, not ceding a single set to any of those conference opponents. Virginia Wesleyan was a regionally ranked squad at the time as well.
The Yellow Jackets closed the season at the Emory National Invitational, where R-MC faced three regionally ranked squads, two of whom were also in the national Top 25. Randolph-Macon got its revenge over #24 Berry for the lost earlier in the season, but lost to #8 Emory and Birmingham-Southern. Against Emory, R-MC took the Eagles to five sets, forcing Emory to play for longer than they had become accustomed to doing.
Upon returning from Atlanta, R-MC, the #1 seed in the ODAC Tournament, faced the #8 seeded Eastern Mennonite Royals, defeating EMU 3-0 in the quarterfinals. That gave the green light to R-MC to host the semifinals and the finals portion of the tournament.
In semifinal action, R-MC beat Lynchburg 3-0, gaining access to its third straight ODAC title match.
Washington and Lee came out of the other side of the bracket to face R-MC in the ODAC Championship. What followed was one of the most exciting games of the season, with W&L taking games 1 and 3 and Randolph-Macon taking games 2 and 4. That set up a deciding set that would power one team into the NCAA Tournament.
Washington and Lee took the early advantage in the final set. Down 2-4, 3-5 and 4-6, Randolph-Macon made a huge stride, scoring five in a row to take the 9-6 advantage. Washington and Lee pulled back within one at 10-9 before the two teams traded points to 11-11, 12-12, 13-13 and 14-14 ties. But senior Rebecca McGilvery (Warrenton, Va. / Kettle Run) got Randolph-Macon's final two kills to secure the set and match victory 16-14.
It was R-MC's third straight ODAC Tournament victory and sixth title in program history. R-MC has also won the regular season four years in a row.
R-MC would go on to face Swarthmore in the NCAA First Round at Stevenson University where the Garnet got the better of the Yellow Jackets 3-0. R-MC has now been to the NCAA Tournament seven times, including three years in a row.
With the completion of an undefeated conference season, it also marked the third year in a row that the Yellow Jackets had swept all ODAC competition, regardless of regular-season or tournament action. The last time the team didn't beat an ODAC opponent was November 8, 2014 when they lost to Lynchburg 3-1 in the ODAC Tournament. That year also was the last time an ODAC opponent beat R-MC in the regular season – when Washington and Lee got the better of the Yellow Jackets on October 18, losing 3-2 to the Generals.
Coming off her Rookie of the Year performance in 2016, sophomore Miranda Hall (Mechanicsville, Va./Hanover) was named an All-American as well as earning the ODAC Player of the Year recognition and was a member of the All-ODAC First Team. Hall finished the season atop the ODAC in kills per set with 3.18. She also appeared in the Top 200 in entire country's rankings for kills per set. She was third in the conference for total kills with 308. Both were also team leads. Hall also appeared in the Top 15 in the conference for kill percentage. In the ODAC Tournament, Hall had 24 kills, including 16 in a critical match against Washington and Lee for the ODAC Championship. She was also named to the AVCA All-South Region team and All-ODAC Tournament team and was named the ODAC Player of the Week three times this season.
Joining Hall on the All-ODAC First Team were seniors Samantha Sallade (Newport News, Va. / Peninsula Catholic) and Erin Quinn (Morrisville, N.C. / Cardinal Gibbons) and junior Mariah Clark (Stuarts Draft, Va. / Riverheads). Clark was named an honorable mention All-American as well as an AVCA All-South Region selection. Sallade was named to the AVCA All-South Region Honorable Mention group as well.
Sallade will leave her college career with both the ODAC and Randolph-Macon title for most digs in a career. Through the conference tournament, she has 512 this season and has 5.12 digs per set. Both lead the team. She also tallied 18 service aces. In total digs, she finishes third in the ODAC this year and finishes fifth for digs per set. For her record-breaking career, she totals 2,095 digs in her career.
Quinn, who was named the Player of the Year in 2016, finishes her college career at second on Randolph-Macon's career all-time assists list. She finishes behind Jennifer Hummill (2000-03), who had 3,029 total assists across her career. Quinn was also recognized as a 2017 College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-District® student-athlete. She finished the season in the Top 10 in the ODAC for both total assists and assists per set.
Clark finishes in the top ten in the conference for hitting percentage (.257, 6th in ODAC), total kills, (265, 7th in ODAC), kills per set (2.62, 8th in ODAC), total blocks (62, 8th in ODAC) and in the top 15 in the ODAC for blocks per set (0.61, 13th in ODAC). It's the second time that Clark has been recognized as an Honorable Mention All-American – she was on the same list last year. Clark was named as an ODAC Player of the Week this season as well.
McGilvery was also honored by the ODAC with an All-ODAC Second Team selection. She finishes the season tied for 8th in total kills with 262. She is 12th in the ODAC in kills per set as well as eighth for total service aces. She leads the team in the latter category, while placing third on the team in both total kills and kills per set. It was the second time McGilvery has played herself on to All-ODAC Second Team honors -- she did the same last season.
McGilvery, Hall and junior Emily Fitzwater (Bealeton, Va. / Liberty) were also named to the All-ODAC Tournament Team.
Head Coach Bill Rogers was honored by the leagues' head coaches as the ODAC Coach of the Year. Rogers' 2017 team is his third straight to go undefeated in conference play and has won the regular season ODAC title for four straight seasons and has three straight ODAC Tournament titles. Rogers has been named the ODAC Coach of the Year for four straight years and has won the honor six times overall. In his 16th season with the Yellow Jackets, his career record is 372-146 (.720), including a 150-18 (.893) mark in league play.
Looking ahead to 2018, R-MC will return five of its core starters and key reserves, as well as will have openings for other younger players to rise into the top lineup.