By Jordan Rinard, Senior Staff Writer
The Miami University volleyball team started the season with 3-0 (26-24, 25-15, 25-23) and 3-1 (25-11, 22-25, 25-12, 25-19) wins against North Dakota State University and Robert Morris University before being defeated 2-3 (21-25, 25-20, 25-20, 21-25, 11-15) by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the Panther Invitational. Senior setter/outside hitter Meg Riley and sophomore middle blocker Paige Hill were named to the All-Tournament team following their performances over the weekend.
"This weekend was a good start to our season," head coach Carolyn Condit said. "We faced our biggest challenge in Milwaukee and we went five sets and lost by four points. They have a great defense and a dominant hitter. They would be a top four MAC team."
In the first set against North Dakota State, Miami traded blows with NDSU, but found itself down 18-23 before four errors by the Bison and kills by senior outside hitter Sarah Chaney and Riley assisted in the comeback by the 'Hawks. The second set was also tight until the 7-7 mark, when the Red and White exploded on a 6-0 run en route to 25-15 win. The RedHawks completed the sweep when a bad set by NDSU awarded the winning point to the RedHawks.
Freshman outside hitter Olivia Rusek and Hill led the team with nine kills each, while Riley recorded a double-double with 15 assists and 13 digs. Sophomore setter Krista Brakauskas barely missed having a double-double herself with 17 assists and nine digs.
The opening set against Robert Morris ended swiftly and emphatically as the 'Hawks jumped out to an 11-0 lead and never looked back. The Colonials came back and took the second set after the Red and White failed to seal the deal when up 20-18 and surrendered a 7-2 spurt.
The beginning of the third set was also close before an 8-1 run proved too much for RMU as Miami won the set 25-12. The RedHawks came through in the fourth set as they ended with a 9-3 run, enabled by two kills each from Hill and junior outside hitter Annie Reiswig.
Hill and Reiswig tied for the most kills in the match with nine each, while Riley missed out on a triple-double with eight kills, 21 assists and 11 digs. Freshman libero Maeve McDonald tallied 21 digs in the match.
In the first set against Milwaukee, the teams traded blows until the 9-9 mark, when the Panthers went on an 8-3 run on their way to taking the set. The 'Hawks had an impressive stretch of their own in the second set as they went 12-6, getting kills from six different players to go up 20-14 and eventually tie the match with a set win.
The third set was also close but the Red and White pulled away late with an 11-6 at the end of the set run to take the lead in the match. The host team responded in the fourth set with a 9-5 run to close the set and send the match into a fifth stanza. After going down 4-1 early, Miami was unable to complete the comeback as it dropped its first match of the season.
Riley recorded yet another double-double with 11 kills and 30 assists, while Hill accounted for 16 kills in the match. Redshirt junior Jenny Ingle had 12 kills with a .611 hitting percentage and Brakauskas had a near double-double with 23 kills and eight digs.
"Our middle hitters did extremely well this weekend," Condit said. "Paige Hill knows how to score and put the ball down, Jenny Ingle did a really nice job, and [freshman middle blocker] Meredith Stutz helped us win both matches and rarely made an error… Maeve McDonald and [senior libero] Tori Clifford are going to team together at the libero spot and be a pretty good duo for us. Our outside hitters had strokes of brilliance but were never really consistent,"
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Clifford echoed the sentiments of her head coach.
"This was a great start to the season," Clifford said. "We played hard and showed a lot of fight and we know what we need to work on. We never gave up and fought for every point. Now, we need to focus on the little things on our side of the net and get better."
The RedHawks now travel to Bloomington, Indiana for the Indiana Invitational as they take on Indiana University at 7 p.m. Friday and square off against Mississippi State University and Southeast Missouri State University at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday, respectively.