By Jordan Rinard, Senior Staff Writer
Photo by Josh Zak
Seeking to continue its winning ways, the Miami University volleyball team continues its road trip this weekend for the CEFCU Classic in Peoria, Illinois as it takes on Bradley University, North Dakota State University and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The RedHawks (4-2) have come out of their last two tournaments with winning records.
"This week, we're working on improving our passing control to our setters and having sharp and aggressive attacks with our hitters," head coach Carolyn Condit said. "We're working on our transition game, where our blockers become hitters and terminate the ball. We've also been working on improving our serving. After going 2-1 in the last two tournaments, we need to get this tournament and know what it's like to go 3-0. We've got good experience in the tournaments and we need to continue to play sharp volleyball."
Bradley (0-6) is still trying to find its way off the struggle bus as it has yet to pick up a win this season. Freshman outside hitter Taylor Thiele has been a bright spot for the Braves as she leads the team with 61 kills and 72 points.
North Dakota State (1-5) has already tasted defeat at the hands of the Red and White this season as the Bison were swept in the season opener and have struggled to be on the positive side of the win/loss column ever since. Junior outside hitter Jenni Fassbender has been big offensively for the Bison as she is the team leader in points with 73.5 and kills with 63 while sophomore middle blocker Emily Minnick has been doing work on both sides of the net with her 48 kills and 18 total blocks.
UMKC (4-2) looks to be the toughest test of the tournament for the 'Hawks, as the team has knocked off Central Michigan University, the University of Omaha, South Dakota State University and Stephen F. Austin University. Junior outside hitter Jessica Hendin has been a force for the Kangaroos as she has 74 kills to go with 92 digs. Junior libero Taryn Miller and senior middle blocker Melissa Hartsel have been big for the 'Roo defense as well with 123 digs and 26 total blocks respectively.
"It'll be an interesting second battle [with NDSU]," Condit said. "Bradley's a solid team with good ball control and good hitters. They'll be worthy opponents for us. We have to assume that each opponent is going to have their best match ever and we have to be on our game every time."
Miami looks to be dialed as it heads into its second-to-last tournament before Mid-American Conference play. Freshman outside hitter Olivia Rusek has been tremendous in her short time in Oxford as she leads the team with 54 kills and 57.5 points. Senior setter/outside hitter Meg Riley has been great in all facets with 39 kills, 115 assists and 41 digs. Redshirt junior middle blocker Jenny Ingle and sophomore middle blocker Paige Hill have been efficient on offense, as they have recorded hitting percentages of .537 and .347 respectively.
"We're working on having more aggressive serves this week and practicing the slide defense," Rusek said. "We want to know what it's like to win a tournament and go 3-0. [The college game] is a lot different. I'm used to playing best-of-three matches and it's scarier, because there was a huge crowd at Indiana and I never played in front of that many people before and never played against other players that were bigger."
The RedHawks take on Bradley 8 p.m. Friday and face North Dakota State and UMKC Saturday at 11 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. respectively.