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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 25, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Sports

Blue and Gold to host Empire 8 championship

The volleyball team’s first win, shutout and its first tournament victory this season all came at home in the Ben Light Gymnasium, and on Oct. 23 the Bombers, playing at home, added another first to that list.

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Junior outside hitter Jessica Hoeffner (center) spikes the ball during practice Tuesday in Ben Light Gymnasium. The Bombers are 20–14 overall this season and 7–1 in Empire 8 conference play. KELSEY O’CONNOR/THE ITHACAN

At the Empire 8 Crossover held in Ben Light Gymnasium, the Blue and Gold beat Stevens Institute of Technology, in addition to the other three teams at the tournament, to complete the sweep and claim the Empire 8 regular season title for the first time since 2005. After going 4–0 at the Empire 8 Crossover, the South Hill squad went 1–3 at the Skidmore College Classic last weekend.

The Blue and Gold will look to find their winning stroke as they return to South Hill, where the team is a perfect 9–0 this season, as the No. 1 seed for the Empire 8 Conference Championships this weekend.

The Bombers went into the Empire 8 Crossover with a lot of confidence and the ultimate goal to win, senior defensive specialist/libero Taylor Horton said. Horton said the team built momentum with its wins during the past few weeks, and the South Hill squad carried that into the Empire 8 Crossover.

The Bombers’ determination showed in their victory over the reigning regular season champions, Stevens Institute of Technology, to secure the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage. Horton said beating Stevens was new and exciting for the team.

“It feels great because in my four years here we’ve never done that, so it’s amazing,” Horton said. “It feels like all the hard work we’ve put in all season really paid off. Everyone is really excited about it. But now we’re just anticipating because we haven’t felt like we’ve completely won it yet until we win conference finals.”

Junior outside hitter Chelsea Hayes said the home-court advantage for the Empire 8 championship tournament that comes along with the title is a huge perk.

“It’s always an advantage to play on your home court,” Hayes said. “You don’t have to travel, and it’ll be nice to be able to have fans come and support us. It’s also a nice feeling to know you’re the top seed and that you get to have people come to your house.”

However, there is some added pressure with going in being on top.  Since the Bombers go into the tournament as the No. 1 seed, they play the fourth seed in their first match. Rochester Institute of Technology is seeded fourth, and the team beat the Blue and Gold earlier in the season in Rochester, N.Y. Horton said some of the team’s preparation for the match involves watching video and looking at key statistics so the Bombers can practice specific drills that are incorporated in Rochester’s strategy.

Junior middle blocker Karin Edsall said the Bombers are excited to go out and back up their No. 1 seed.

“We are just trying to keep that focus that we haven’t really won anything yet, but we set ourselves up for that win,” Edsall said. “Some teams that we beat to get here might think that it was kind of a fluke that we defeated them, so it’s fun having the mentality of ‘we can get you again, it really wasn’t a fluke’, and show them in competition.”

If the Bombers advance to the Empire 8 finals they’ll not only have a chance to bring home the tournament title, something the team has not accomplished since 2005, but they’ll be up against either Elmira College or Nazareth College, both of whom the Bombers have defeated this season.

Last weekend at the Skidmore Classic, the Bombers had their final challenge before the conference championships, going up against three teams that beat them earlier this season. Despite falling to SUNY-New Paltz, Skidmore and SUNY-Cortland for a second time, the Bombers used the matches as motivation to go into conference championships prepared, Horton said.

The South Hill squad kicks off the Empire 8 championship tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. in Ben Light Gymnasium.