Volleyball Seniors Step Up For Eagles
Four years ago, two freshmen walked onto campus, not knowing what to expect out of college either academically or athletically but excited to play volleyball for Emory. They wanted to prove that they were here not only to compete, but to win. Now, seniors and co-captains along with fellow senior Alena Ransom, Breanah Bourque and Alex Duhl have led their team to a 27-4 record and a No. 6 national ranking this season.
Bourque began playing volleyball in third grade and has excelled at it ever since. In high school, she was three-time team MVP of her school team and was even named her high school’s Student Athlete of the Year her senior year (2008-09). She loves her sport, but she also appreciates a great education.
“I chose Emory because it just felt right for me,” Bourque said. “I knew that I would be playing for an extremely talented and competitive team with coaches who love what they do and treat you like family. Emory offered me all of this and presented challenging academics, a combination that is not easy to come by at other universities.”
Since she has joined the team, Bourque has excelled. She stands first on Emory’s career hitting percentage list (.386), eighth in kills per set (3.04) and seventh in kills with 1,405. She was named the American Volleyball Coaches’ Association’s (AVCA) player of the week this past week and was an All-American in 2011.
Duhl began playing for Emory in 2009, putting up impressive numbers in her rookie season. She began playing volleyball in fourth grade, but did not join a club team till seventh grade. Captain of her squad, Duhl excelled in high school and was named Most Inspirational Player both her junior and senior years.
“I picked Emory because I wanted to play on a team that could compete for a national championship and also give me the chance to be able to be a student and take school seriously,” Duhl said. “I wanted a school where athletics and academics were equally valued, and Emory offered that.”
Duhl immediately proved that she would be a valuable asset to her teammates. In her freshman year, she led the team in total blocks and blocks per set. Even though she sat out her sophomore year due to injury, she still ranks 19th on Emory’s all time list for block assists (158). Duhl has captured Honorable Mention All-UAA honors and has recorded consistently strong showing in championships when her team needs it most.
Since they have joined the team, both Duhl and Bourque have continually impressed their coach and teammates. Their extreme commitment and dedication to the team has had an impact since they started playing for Emory.
Head Coach Jenny McDowell saw the potential in them from the beginning.
“I started recruiting them both as juniors in high school,” McDowell said. “I saw them both play in high school; we knew they were the perfect fit for Emory.”
Both Bourque and Duhl are having their best campaigns at Emory so far this season. They are leading a relatively young team through what has been an impressive year to this point.
“Both have had their best seasons this year,” McDowell said. “The combination of the two of them has been so effective.
In addition to their impressive skills on the court, Bourque and Duhl have personalities that keep the team bonded together.
“They have a phenomenal impact both on and off the court. They are tremendous leaders and give off great examples through how they live their lives,” McDowell said.
Freshman setter Sydney Miles has experienced this terrific leadership firsthand.
“Breanah and Alex are incredible players,” Miles wrote in an email to the Wheel. “I have never played with anyone so dedicated and so talented. They have really guided me in the right direction Even though I am a freshman, they have made me feel like an important part of the team.”
Through playing the same position, Bourque and Duhl have established a strong dynamic that is rooted in their great friendship off the court. They know that they are there for each other and will help when one is having an off day.
“I know that when I come out and she goes in that nothing is going to change on the court and that she is going to get it done” Bourque said. “When I am having an off game, Duhl will pick up the game I need to be picking up, and vice versa.”
Duhl and Bourque both want to succeed as players, but they want the team to win more than anything else.
“I love everyone on the team and our dynamic is really awesome,” Duhl said. “We play for each other.”
McDowell could not have been happier with the choice of Duhl and Bourque as captains. On reflecting on the impact that they have had both on the team and on herself, McDowell explained that she could not imagine the team without them.
“Over the four years, their winning percentage has been unbelievable,” McDowell said. “They are great people, and they have changed my life in so many ways. The impact they have had on me in four years, just as a coach; I will be forever indebted to them. They are unbelievable people.”
— By Alexander Del Re