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Volleyball extends win streak to 15 matches

By Kyle Steiner, The Miami Student

The Miami University volleyball team finished its four-game road trip with back-to-back victories against Mid-American Conference opponents Central Michigan University and Eastern Michigan University this weekend.

"It takes a big toll on you to constantly be on the road, but to know that we can win in uncomfortable situations is really good," junior right side hitter Katie Tomasic said.

The weekend sweep puts Miami at 16-4 overall with an undefeated 8-0 conference record. The 'Hawks win streak now stands at 15 matches.

The doubleheader began Friday night against the Chippewas.

In the first set, three kills by sophomore outside hitter Stela Kukoc led the RedHawks to an early 8-2 lead. CMU closed the gap to 10-13, but kills by senior outside hitter Maris Below and senior middle hitter Paige Hill halted the run, propelling MU to a 25-17 victory.

Set two was tight from start to finish. With a slim 18-17 advantage, a Below kill and block put the Red and White in control, propelling the squad to a decisive 7-0 closing run, giving Miami the set win.

Two early kills by Tomasic opened up a 4-1 lead for the 'Hawks in the third set. Kukoc continued her strong performance, tallying three kills to help MU gain a 20-14 lead. The Chippewas then made two straight service errors to give the RedHawks the straight set win.

CMU now stands at 8-11 overall and 2-5 in the MAC.

As a team, Miami recorded a season best .391 attacking percentage, led by the strong play of Kukoc. She finished with a career-high 14 kills, recording a .462 individual attacking percentage.

Tomasic totaled 11 kills, while Hill and Below had eight apiece. Redshirt sophomore setter Mackenzie Zielinski had 22 assists and 10 digs on the night, while junior libero Maeve McDonald chipped in 14 assists.

The squad then took a short trip to face off against the Eastern Michigan Eagles on Saturday night.

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Three kills by Tomasic, two kills by Below, and a service ace by McDonald forced an EMU timeout as the 'Hawks jumped out to a 14-9 lead in the first set. Later, clinging to a 23-21 advantage, a kill by junior right side hitter Olivia Rusek and an Eagle attack error gave MU the 25-21 win.

In the second set, Kukoc led the way with two early kills and a service ace to give the squad an 11-5 lead. EMU closed the gap to 15-17, but a kill and block by junior middle hitter Meredith Stutz helped Miami pull away. Two service aces by Zielenski and Below closed out the 25-18 victory for the Red and White.

Tied at 12 apiece in the third set, an 8-1 Eastern Michigan run put the game out of reach for MU. Down 24-14, two service aces and a kill by Rusek revived the 'Hawks, but EMU responded with a block to secure the 25-17 win.

The Eagles rode their momentum to a 10-6 lead in the fourth set. With a potential fifth set looming, the RedHawks rallied to tie the game at 19 apiece behind kills by Rusek, Below, Tomasic and Hill. A service ace by Rusek gave the Red and White its first lead of the set at 20-19. Miami never looked back, as a block by Stutz and Tomasic clinched the set at 25-21, giving MU the 3-1 match victory.

The Eagles hit .301 against the RedHawks, which was the second highest attack percentage against Miami on the year. With the loss, EMU fell to 7-14 overall and 2-6 in the MAC.

Miami had a .349 attacking percentage, led by the strong play of Tomasic, who had a team-high 13 kills. She recorded no errors on the match, finishing with a staggering .520 attack percentage.

Kukoc finished a strong weekend with a near double-double, tallying nine kills and 10 digs. Zielinski (26 assists and 11 digs) and senior setter Krista Brakauskas (23 assists and eight digs) had solid all-around matches, while McDonald led the RedHawks with 14 digs.

"We are really trying to focus on finishing games strong and staying aggressive in all aspects of the game," McDonald said.

Miami now finishes regular season play with six of its final eight matches at home. A solid showing throughout the next month will likely secure the top seed for the squad in the conference tournament.

The home stand begins 7 p.m. Friday night against the University of Toledo.