With consecutive losses in its final two matches of the regular season, the VCU volleyball team dropped to 11-3 in the Atlantic 10, losing sole possession of first place in the conference. The Lady Rams fell to Saint Louis University 3-0 Saturday, Nov. 9 before suffering their first home loss of the season to Duquesne University 3-1 on Friday, Nov. 15.
The Lady Dukes fought VCU through the entire first set but were able to capture it 25-22. The second set also went Duquesne’s way as they shut down VCU’s offense, and defeated the Lady Rams 25-15.
Sophomore outside hitter Romana Kriskova was honored before the match as VCU’s new single-season kills record holder, but Duquesne appeared to figure out the sophomore phenom. The Lady Dukes shut down Kriskova with key digs led by junior libero Patti Abshire, who registered 16 throughout the match.
Kriskova recorded 24 kills in the match, extending her record to 601 on the year.
Four different Lady Dukes dug at least ten balls in the four sets played. Duquesne continually served to Kriskova and, despite her nine kills in the first two sets, Duquesne was able to block key shots and frustrate the new record holder.
Head coach Jody Rogers showed continued support with the outside hitter and offered her words of encouragement throughout the match.
“I just tried to be positive and kept telling her ‘You can do this, you can do this,’” Rogers said.
Kriskova and the Lady Rams refused to give up. Down 2-0, VCU stormed back to capture a wildly-contested third set. After trailing 22-21, Kriskova tallied three kills in a row to gain control of the set. She recorded 10 kills in the third frame alone.
Toward the end of a close fourth set, the Lady Rams found themselves up 19-17, but lost the lead to a 6-0 Duquesne run after a timeout. The Lady Dukes ended the set 25-21 and captured their grudge match against VCU after the Lady Rams defeated Duquesne on their home court on Sept. 29.
Junior libero Amanda Love had 20 digs, but the Lady Rams were still bested 70-57 in the digs column. Sophomore Kalah Jones also provided some offensive firepower with 11 kills while freshman setter Kaitlyn LaMantia distributed 45 assists throughout the match in a losing effort.
Junior middle blocker Janelle Sykes recorded five kills with six blocks in the match. Sykes is now in second place for VCU’s single-season blocks record with 161. She needs just 12 more blocks to pass Martina Samadan, who set the record just last season.
Rogers provided a positive outlook after a disappointing end to the successful regular season.
“The girls came out, they were excited, it was just that Duquesne had something to fight for as well and it came down to a dogfight,” Rogers said. “In the end you need everybody to show up and I think that’s what they need to work on more.”
The Lady Rams will have to wait to see what seed they will receive in the A-10 tournament, hosted by George Washington University in Washington, D.C. VCU will hope to finish the season in first or second place, which will give them a first-round bye.With one of the top two seeds, the Lady Rams would play their first postseason match in the conference semifinals on Saturday, Nov. 23. If the rams do not get one of these two seeds they will begin their run for the A-10 championship in the quarterfinals on Friday, Nov. 22.
VCU needs to focus on matters within its control rather than future opponents, Rogers said.
“We’re 0-0 again starting tomorrow so we need to focus and get ready for the A-10 championship.”
The Lady Rams went 24-7 in the regular season, finishing the conference portion of the schedule with a record of 11-3. VCU was 9-1 at home and 8-4 on the road. They will look to continue to build their confidence and refocus for the quickly approaching Atlantic 10 tournament in hopes of capturing their first A-10 title.