Kyle Steiner, The Miami Student
After wins over the University of Toledo and Ball State University this weekend, the Miami University volleyball team is now just one win away from tying the school record held by the 1980 RedHawks.
The Red and White sits at 18-4 overall with a perfect 10-0 Mid-American Conference record.
The weekend action began Friday night at Millet Hall against the Rockets. In the first set, with a slim 9-8 lead, the 'Hawks got things rolling, going on a 6-1 run behind two kills from senior outside hitter Maris Below and a service ace by sophomore setter Mackenzie Zielenski. From there, MU never looked back on its way to a 25-16 victory.
Toledo built an 11-8 advantage in the second set, but the RedHawks countered with an 8-0 run, swinging momentum back in their favor. Leading 20-17, a block and a kill by junior outside hitter Olivia Rusek secured the 25-18 win.
The RedHawks and Rockets went back and forth early in the third set. With the score tied at 7-7, the Red and White pulled away on a 10-2 run behind a Rusek kill and a block by junior middle hitter Meredith Stutz, forcing Toledo to burn a timeout. After the break, the Rockets cut the MU lead to 20-15, but a block and a kill by junior right side hitter Courtney Bemis halted Toledo's momentum as Miami claimed the final set 25-17.
With the loss, the Rockets fall to 12-9 overall and 5-4 in the MAC.
Miami put forth one of its best defensive efforts on the season, holding the Rockets to a .070 attacking percentage, forcing them into 17 attack errors.
"I was real pleased with our defense, I thought our block did a great job getting over and being as big as they could," head coach Carolyn Condit said."I think our serving really put us in an advantage tonight in limiting what Toledo could do. That gave our blockers the ability to double team a little more."
Rusek and Below both had eight kills for Miami, while junior right side hitter Katie Tomasic finished with six on the night. Zielinski fed the MU attack with 19 assists, while junior libero Maeve McDonald held down the back row with 14 digs.
The 'Hawks returned to action on Saturday night against the Cardinals, storming out of the gate to an 9-1 lead in the first set. A block by sophomore outside hitter Stela Kukoc and a kill by Stutz helped push the lead to 18-11, forcing a Ball State timeout. Miami never looked back, as Rusek put down a kill to clinch the 25-17 win.
Miami started hot once again in the second set, jumping out to a 11-3 lead. A Ball State run tightened the game to 19-13 in favor of the 'Hawks, but a kill from Hill and consecutive service aces by senior setter Krista Brakauskus gave Miami the 25-16 victory.
The third and final set was tightly contested from start to finish. With Ball State leading 18-17, a Kukoc block and kill, along with a Stuz kill, gave the Red and White a 21-19 advantage. BSU rallied to tie the game at 24 apiece, but a clutch kill by Hill along with a Cardinal attack error gave Miami the set and the match at 26-24.
Ball State now stands at 9-15 overall with a 5-5 MAC record.
The RedHawks out blocked the Cardinals by a 10-2 margin. They also hit .317 on the match, compared to a .111 percentage for Ball State.
Tomasic led all MU players with 11 kills, finishing with an impressive .474 attacking percentage. Below finished with nine kills, while Rusek had eight for the game. Hill (5 blocks), Zielenski (22 assists), and McDonald (16 digs) led the 'Hawks in their respective categories.
"I think that is has been really helpful that our team has so much depth. Every single person on the roster brings so much to the court," Tomasic said.
Miami now looks to tie the school win streak record at home 7 p.m. Thursday against Bowling Green State University.