VCU volleyball dropped consecutive conference matches at home on Friday, Oct. 14 and Sunday, Oct. 16.
Sunday’s game concluded in a 3-1 loss to St. Louis University (10-12) and caused the Rams’ record to fall to 13-10. Friday’s match against Dayton University (20-1) ended in identical fashion, with the Rams falling by a final tally of 3 sets to 1.
The Rams will try to get back on track at George Washington University on Friday, Oct. 21. VCU will attempt to best the Colonials for a second time this season after winning easily in straight sets at home on Oct. 9.
On Sunday the Rams notched a season-high 17 blocks, but the Billikens still cruised to a 3-1 win. St. Louis star senior Danielle Rygelski recorded 24 kills. Rygelski, the current NCAA kills leader, also ended the match with two aces, four blocks and six digs.
Sophomore middle blocker Tori Baldwin stood out for the Rams by contributing nine blocks. Freshman middle blocker Jasmin Sneed, last week’s Atlantic-10 rookie of the week, recorded eight kills, two aces and added six blocks of her own.
Junior outside hitter Alica Kandler contributed eight kills as well, and junior libero Rebekah Strange had 18 digs.
VCU’s defensive strategy against Rygelski proved effective at the outset of the match — the Rams threw several blockers at her to keep her presence in the match to a minimum.
Holding Rygelski to five kills and eliciting seven errors from the senior, the Rams easily took the first set by a score of 25-13.
The second frame marked the beginning of the end for the Rams, as Rygelski evened the score by leading the Billikens to a 25-20 win.
Down by six in the third, St. Louis staged a furious rally of nine unanswered points to take a 19-16 lead, and did not look back after that.
After stellar play in the first set — the Rams recorded a hitting percentage of .304 — they were stalled to a lackluster .141 percentage by a stifling St. Louis defense.
On Friday, volleyball fell in four sets to the defending A-10 champion Dayton Flyers. A national contender, Dayton improved to 20-1, winning their eighth consecutive match and remaining undefeated in the A-10.
Sophomore opposite hitter Julia Adler headlined the match for VCU with 11 kills and hit .429. Kandler also finished with 11 kills and 10 digs — she was one of three Rams to achieve double-digit digs.
The leader of the trio was Strange, with 17 digs. Freshmen setters Tyler Sroufe and Dajah Ard had a combined 40 assists. Ard also had 10 digs and an ace.
On the other side of the net, Kendyll Brown led the Flyers, hitting a dominant .526 and notching 12 kills to go along with six blocks.
The Black and Gold limited Dayton to a .128 hitting percentage in the third before a late Dayton rally. The Flyers immediately struck back and nearly tied the set, but freshman Jasmin Sneed put up back-to-back blocks to secure a 25-22 win.
VCU pressured Dayton late in the game by mounting comebacks in the third and fourth sets and even pulling to within 21-20 in the fourth set.
Up two sets to one, with a potential tie breaking fifth set looming, Brown played spoiler to the VCU rally with a pair of kills after the Rams pulled within a point.
Brown’s teammates Amber Erhahon and Jessica Sloan put an end to the rally with a kill each to end the match and give Dayton a 3-1 win. The Flyers outhit the Black and Gold on the day .197-.139, while also out blocking VCU 13.5-9.0.
Adam Cheek, Contributing Writer