[Women’s Volleyball]: The Fighting Saints (0-2) took on two opponents of excellent caliber to begin the 2023 campaign, playing host to (RV) Indiana Tech (4-1) and the 17th ranked Bellevue Bruins (4-0). The Saints dropped both matches, failing to string together enough momentum to go on any serious runs.
Errors plagued the Saints throughout the afternoon, committing 17 attack errors in match one, and 22 in the second, not to mention the combined 21 service errors on the day.
Gabriella Oliveira goes for the kill. Photo Courtesy of Jaclyn Duske & USF Athletics
Cara Currier’s squad came out ready to fight in the first match of the day, playing a tightly contested first set with the Warriors, trading blows to an even 15-15 match. The Warriors eventually pulled away, thanks to a five point run fueled by Graduate Student Emma Westra. That distance is all the Warriors would need to take the first set 25-20.
The second set showed what the Saints are capable of. After falling behind 9-4 early, the Saints battled all the way back to a tie at 14 a piece, led by Senior Setter Kaylie Sippel. The Southpaw kept the Warriors off balance for most of the night, commanding the offensive side of the ball en route to a team high 30 assists and just one error.
After clawing their way to a 20-19 lead, the Saints traded points with the Warriors, all the way to a 24-24 tie. Kills from Sophomore Cadence Woodrich and Senior Gabriela Oliviera, both with assists from Sippel, put a bow on the lone set victory for the Saints on the day.
Sets 3 and 4 were dominated by Indiana Tech, cruising to 25-12 and 25-14 victories. The Saints ran out of gas at the service line, committing 15 service errors in the match, eight of which came in the last two sets. The Saints committed 9 attack errors in the last two sets, leading to their eventual 3-1 defeat.
Oliviera led the Saints with 14 kills while hitting at a .294 clip. Her 14 kills trailed only Westra in the match, who led all players with 15 kills. Junior Taylor Connolly was 6-15 on the attack (.267%) and provided a much needed energy boost from the bench.
The Saints stared down the 17th ranked team in the nation after a disappointing first match, but they were able to move on quickly and give the Bruins of Bellevue a few early scares.
The Saints hung tough with the Bruins early in the first set, coming back from a 15-8 deficit to tie it at 15, and then again at 19. A devastating kill from Connolly after a feed from Sippel gave the Saints a 24-23 lead over the Bruins, the first lead since 8-7 early in the set. However, a Saints miscommunication followed by a powerful finish on the ensuing point by Junior Sidney Fledge put the set out reach, giving the Bruins a 26-24 win.
The Saints would struggle the rest of the way, losing the next two sets 25-18, 25-16, respectively. Despite the 3-0 loss, Senior Desiree Anderson and Oliviera combined to lead all players in kills with 10 each, and Sippel led the match in assists with 25. However, the Bruins defense was an impenetrable force, as Freshman Chloe Cloud finished with 3.0 blocks, and Sophomore Kealy Kiviniemi had 2.0.
The Saints hit just .124% on the match, committing 22 attack errors, to go along with six service errors, and just two setting errors.
The Saints have a quick turnaround with matches at 11:30 A.M. and 2:00 P.M on Saturday. They take on the University of the Cumberlands (3-3), who dropped both of their matches today, and Spring Arbor University (2-5), who split their two matches (including a defeat of Cumberlands).
The Saints can improve to .500 on the young season with a sweep tomorrow, but will need to clean up the unforced errors in order to do so.