By Jordan Rinard, Senior Staff Writer
Photo by Josh Zak
After posting winning records in its first two tournaments, the Miami University volleyball team (5-4) lost consecutive matches for the first time this season as it fell to North Dakota State University 1-3 (25-19, 14-25, 23-25, 22-25) and the University of Missouri-Kansas City 1-3 (20-25, 29-31, 25-16, 18-25) after downing Bradley University 3-1 (26-28, 25-16, 25-19, 25-18). Despite the result, senior setter/outside hitter Meg Riley made the All-Tournament team with 34 kills, 69 assists and 45 digs over the weekend.
"It was a very good tournament for us before coming home for the Miami Invitational and the MAC season," head coach Carolyn Condit said. "We played teams that are similar to what we'll see in the MAC. It was a very solid learning experience for us. Meg Riley was an offensive threat in every match."
Against Bradley, sophomore middle blocker Paige Hill was prolific on offense as she recorded 16 kills and a .667 hitting percentage to go with two solo blocks and two block assists. Riley was once again on the cusp of a triple-double with nine kills, 25 assists and eight digs. Freshman libero Maeve McDonald tallied 19 digs.
In a first set that featured nine ties between the two teams, the Braves drew first blood with a kill and a service ace after the score was 26-26. Following a 13-13 tie in the second set, Miami went on a 12-3 run to knot the match up.
There was another 13-13 tie in the third set and again the 'Hawks embarked on a lengthy run to take the lead in the match, which was assisted by two kills from sophomore middle blocker Paige Hill and kills from Riley, redshirt junior middle blocker Jenny Ingle, and sophomore outside hitter Maris Below. After an early 2-2 tie in the fourth it was all Red and White as Hill unloaded seven kills in the set.
Riley had a strong showing against North Dakota State as she had 16 kills, 18 assists and 13 digs to go with a .538 hitting percentage. Ingle also recorded double-digit kills on the night, but the team struggled as they had nine service errors and 10 return errors.
After being tied 4-4 in the first set, the RedHawks had a 9-5 spurt from which the Bison were unable to come back from. From then on, it was all NDSU as it outhit Miami .296-.248 over the next three sets.
Riley almost had another triple-double against UMKC with nine kills, 26 assists and 24 digs while freshman outside hitter Olivia Rusek and junior outside hitter Annie Reiswig accounted for 15 and 11 kills respectively. The error woes continued in this match as the 'Hawks had six service errors, six return errors and 23 attack errors.
After hitting .083 in the first set, the Red and White jumped out to an early 6-2 lead before the Kangaroos rallied to take the set 31-29. The third set went to Miami as Rusek led all scorers in the set with six kills. UMKC returned the favor in the following set, to take the match.
"Against UMKC and North Dakota State, we did not block effectively and struggled with lining up and going after the ball," Condit said. "Those teams also had more experienced backcourts and our passing wasn't equal to theirs. We can't wait to pass and serve in the main gym in Millett and improve our ball control and our passing. I'm very proud of Maeve McDonald, who had nearly six digs per set against UMKC. We had a more balanced offense in the last two matches as our outside hitters got involved and each match we improved."
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Sophomore setter Krista Brakauskas also discussed the weekend and possible areas of improvement.
"It was a rough weekend for us," Brakauskas said. "We started off strong against Bradley and it was the first time we won on an opposing home court, but we didn't come out strong against North Dakota State and made more mistakes than UMKC did. We have a lot to work on and were excited for this next tournament. This week we need to come out strong and bring our big energy and make less errors serving and passing."
This weekend, the RedHawks return home for the Miami Invitational when they take on IUPUI at 7 p.m. Friday and face UAB and Ohio State University at noon and 7 p.m. Saturday.