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Doing the splits: RedHawks go 1-1 in Saturday volleyball doubleheader

There was plenty of volleyball action to go around, as the Miami RedHawks faced University of South Carolina Upstate and Northwestern on Saturday. The RedHawks faced tough schedule to start, with three games coming in the first 24 hours of the season.

The Miami Best Western Sycamore Inn Invitational concluded this past weekend with Miami (2-1) sweeping the Spartans (0-3) in three sets before falling to Northwestern in a gritty four-set match on Saturday night.

Miami's winning record has a lot to do with freshmen. With several injuries plaguing the RedHawks, head coach Carolyn Condit had an opportunity to showcase the freshmen she had worked years to recruit.

"We don't get to see enough of these freshmen," Condit said. "I treasure those moments [where I get] to put them in, because I recruited them for two and a half years, and I know they're good. If you give them the opportunity, sometimes they shine."

Before the first match against USC Upstate, senior middle hitter and team captain Haley Stewart was seen wearing a warm-up jacket. She did not participate in pregame exercises and was held out of the contest due to a back spasm she suffered earlier in the day. This would open the door for freshman outside hitter Lindsay Taylor to show off her versatility by starting in only her second collegiate game.

A service ace from junior setter Morgan Seaman got the RedHawks off to a quick lead in the first set. Miami would continue to own the set behind strong play from senior middle hitter Margaret Payne and freshman outside hitter Allyson Severance, who both had four kills. Behind dominating play from seniors and freshmen alike (mixing in two service aces from Seaman), the 'Hawks took 13 of the final 14 points and cruised to a 25-12 win.

The second set was back and forth, with neither team gaining an advantage of more than two points.

A service error tied the game for the fifth time at 7-7, before junior right side Avarie Powell's kill began a 6-0 Miami run. Powell and senior outside hitter Taylor Daignault had four kills apiece to spark Miami's offense and lead the RedHawks to a 25-14 win in the second set.

Allyson Severance proved to be the star of the third set. The freshman recorded 7 kills and a service ace, taking over and closing out the match for the RedHawks with a 25-20 win.

"That's what I want to do," Severance said about her fourteen kills in the match sweep. "Just help in any way possible and help how [the team] wants me to."

Severance led the team in kills. Other highlights came from sophomore setter Louis Comerford recording a match-high 22 assists, and Daignault laying out for a match-high 14 digs. The 'Hawks also kept the Spartans to a .106 hitting percentage against their own .282 percentage.

Junior outside hitter McKenna Kirkpatrick led USC Upstate with 7 kills and a .250 hitting percentage.

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The last match of the Invitational featured the Northwestern Wildcats (3-0) against the hosting RedHawks. Miami had not seen the 'Cats since 2013 and were 1-4 against the Big 10 school leading up to the Saturday match.

"Gritty" would be a graceful way to put the first set between the two teams, as short runs dictated who was able to seize the momentum. The set was well fought by both teams, being pushed into extra play, where back-to-back kills from sophomore outside hitter Gaby Harper finished the job and gave the RedHawks a 26-24 set victory.

Northwestern came out with a new fire in the second set, burying the RedHawks with a 9-0 run in the middle of the set, which carried over into the win column, as Northwestern emerged with a 25-16 victory.

The third set was controlled by the Wildcats, not giving up a lead or even allowing Miami to tie the game. Freshman outside hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara and senior middle hitter Olivia Viscuso had their fingerprints all over the third set, tallying eight combined kills on top of a 25-20 Wildcat win.

The fourth set echoed much of the first set. Both teams were striving for the Invitational Championship, and no lead grew past four points. Miami took its first lead at 9-8, the first time it led since 5-4 in the second set. Back and forth all the way through, the RedHawk comeback, led by Margaret Payne and Lindsay Taylor, was not to be, as Miami fell short, 25-23, in the final set, losing the match 3-1.

A labrum fray kept Gaby Harper out of the final set, though she recorded 9 kills through the match. Payne tallied 13 kills and sophomore outside hitter Sophie Riemersma, who had also previously played short stints due to injury, racked up 9 kills in the loss.

Northwestern's team captain, Nila Robinson, had 19 kills to lead the match with her cohorts, Thomas-Ailera and junior middle hitter Alana Walking, both reaching double-digit kill counts. Graduate student setter Payton Chang dished out 52 assists, more than the entire RedHawk team combined.

Miami volleyball looks to get things back on track against Dayton at Millett Hall on Tuesday. The match is scheduled for a 7 p.m. tipoff.