Women’s volleyball heats up; pushes winning streak to five

Left to right, No. 16 Kaitlyn LaManantia sets a ball for teammates No. 12 Uzoamaka Ibeh (middle) and No. 8 Nora Reed (right). CT file photo.

Jennifer Werling
Contributing Writer

VCU’s women volleyball team has won five straight matches, improving their overall record to 7-7. The Rams’ defeated Davidson College in both team’s Atlantic 10 conference opener on Sept. 27 as well as besting the College of William & Mary on the road on Tuesday, Sept. 23. On Sept. 19-20, the Lady Rams dominated their season home-opener, sweeping the competition 3-0.

After opening the season with nine-straight road games, the Rams visited a struggling W&M team, continuing their tear, winning 3-0. Sophomore Nora Reed shined, not committing an error in 13 hitting attempts. She also hit .615 with eight kills.

During VCU’s five-match winning streak, senior Janelle Sykes is hitting .409 and averaging 3.56 kills and 1.25 blocks per set. Senior Cecilia Aragao is handing out 10.56 assists per set over the same stretch.

After the impressive win, head coach Jody Rodgers explained how the Rams have been able to turn things around.

“Our play as of late is a combination of communication and confidence,” Rodgers said. “When you have a lot of new kids playing significant amount of time, it takes a while to get on the same page.”

On Sept. 19-20, the Rams played at home for the first time this season to host the VCU Invitational at the Siegel Center. The Rams made easy work of East Tennessee State University 3-0 on Friday, Sept. 19 and edged out Ball State University in a comeback thriller on Saturday, Sept. 20 leading up to a matchup against University of Virginia later that day.

Entering the contest with a  record of 7-4, U.Va. got down on the scoreboard early. VCU would lead 2-0, but the Cavaliers would bounce back quickly winning both the third and fourth matches 26- 24. Sykes would blast eight kills in the fifth-set tiebreaker finishing with a career-high 20 to push VCU past U.Va. in front of over 1,000 fans at the Siegel Center.

Against Ball State, a comeback rally was led by Skyes and Aragao. After winning set one 19-25, VCU found themselves in a 2-1 series hole. Set four started with an early 17-7 advantage for VCU, winning the set 25-14. Skyes and junior Uzoamaka Ibeh each had three kills.

In the tiebreaker set against the Cardinals, the Rams’ led 14-5 before an 8-0 burst by BSU brought the match within one-point 14-13. VCU would eventually hold on and win with a match point of 15 for their fourth win of the season.

On Friday night, Sept. 19 against East Tennessee State, the Lady Rams hit a season high of .323 against a ETSU team, opening the weekend tournament and the home portion of their schedule in a massive way. Sykes, a Clifton, Virginia native, spiked eight kills on 12 attempts and logged four blocks. Sophomore Kalah Jones led the VCU offense with 14 kills, hitting .250. opening the fall portion of their schedule in a massive way. Aragao registered 33 assists and added 10 digs for the team’s third win over ETSU in two seasons.

After a successful showing at home, Rogers was pleased with the team’s performance after the win against East Tennessee.

“The preseason was very competitive for us and we came out here and showed what we’re capable of and we just need to keep getting better every day,” Rogers said.

Sykes was pleased with the women’s play over in the tournament.

“We passed well and had a lot of speed moving the ball fast … it really paid off,” Skyes said

The end of the VCU invitational weekend improved the Lady Rams to a record of 5-7.

Opening the season on the road may help the Rams’ moving forward as the team continues A-10 conference play.

“The early schedule is benefiting us now,” Rodgers said. “Playing that tough schedule early can be great if you can stay positive and focus on getting better, and I think you’re seeing that now.”

Up next for Rodger’s team is a pair of conference matchups against Saint Louis University on Friday, Oct. 3 and Dayton University on Oct. 5.

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