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Volleyball wins MAC tournament opener, advances to Championship

Number one seeded Miami volleyball (22-8, 14-3) beat fourth seeded Ohio University (17-15, 10-7) in three straight sets in its Mid-American Conference tournament opener at Millett Hall on Saturday. With the win, the RedHawks advance to the championship game Sunday, against the sixth seeded Western Michigan Broncos.

"I think we can play better, but we played well enough to win tonight," Miami head coach Carolyn Condit said. "I really liked the fire we played with."

Miami started the first set on a 3-0 run, and continued to dominate the Bobcats, eventually taking a 17-9 lead. Ohio then went on three separate 3-0 runs to halt the RedHawks' momentum. MU recovered and held on to win the set 25-21.

The second set was all Bobcats in the early going, as they won five of the first six points. With OU leading 7-4, the RedHawks rallied with a 7-0 run to take a 11-7 lead. The rest of the set was close, but Miami prevailed, once again winning 25-21.

In the third set, both teams battled to keep it close before MU started to pull away with a 19-16 lead. Ohio mounted a late comeback, tying the set at 23. However, it was Miami's night, as they won the last two points to take the set and the game.

"The game was super close the whole time, but I didn't have a doubt in my mind that we would get the win," senior outside hitter Olivia Rusek said.

The victory is Miami's sixth straight win, with its last loss occurring at Bowling Green on October 26th.

Rusek led the RedHawks in kills, while tying for third on the team in digs. She served during Miami's 7-0 run to retake the lead in the second.

"When I was behind the serving line, I felt like they were a little bit nervous," Rusek said. I kept going after one spot. I could tell they were a little frazzled."

Defense was also a factor in MU's win, as they held Ohio to a minuscule .069 attack percentage.

"I think our block lineup did a really great job," Rusek said. "We had bodies flying all over the floor tonight. No one wanted to let any balls drop, and everyone really felt that fire in their hearts to go after every ball."

Other impactful performers for MU were freshman setter Morgan Seaman, sophomore right side Margaret Payne and sophomore defensive specialist Taylor Daignault. Seaman had a team-high 17 assists, Payne led the team with five blocks and Daignault paced the 'Hawks with 18 digs.

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"I think we have the type of team that's really balanced," Condit said. "We can come at them in different directions."

Miami will look to be crowned MAC champions when it takes on Western Michigan on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.