Volleyball falls in Atlantic-10 semis despite relentless effort

Junior libero Rebekah Strange led the Rams in digs against Dayton with 11. We’ll learn from this and get ready for next year. Jody Rogers VCU volleyball coach
Junior libero Rebekah Strange led the Rams in digs against Dayton with 11. We’ll learn from this and get ready for next year. Jody Rogers VCU volleyball coach
Junior libero Rebekah Strange led the Rams in digs. Photo by Eric Marquez.

VCU women’s volleyball was able to advance to the second round of the Atlantic-10 tournament this past weekend before falling in the semifinals. The Rams beat Duquesne Friday in the first round of the tournament but fell to nationally ranked Dayton Saturday.

Both matches were closely contested. The Rams were able to put pressure on the No. 22 Flyers but ultimately went down 3-2.

“I’m proud of how much fight this team had,” said coach Jody Rodgers. “Losing really hurts right now, but in the next few weeks we’ll realize that this is another step for this group as we start to look to next year.”

Dayton

Dayton’s victory over VCU improved their nearly unblemished record to 29-1. Although the Rams lost, they conclude their season with an encouraging 19-14 mark.

Dayton dominated in the first half, edging out VCU 25-12, but the Rams bounced back in the second set with a close 25-20 victory. The Black and Gold cranked out a third set win, but struggled to keep the momentum going and fell in the final two sets.

Several Rams had standout performances in the match, but junior outside hitter Alica Kandler and freshman middle back Jasmin Sneed led the upset effort. Kandler finished with 12 kills and a block, while Sneed recorded six blocks and nine kills. Freshman outside hitter Vicky Giommarini also had twelve kills.

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Other notable players for the Rams included sophomore middle back Tori Baldwin and freshman opposite hitter Gina Tuzzolo.

Dayton’s Jessica Sloan and Kendyll Brown kicked in notable numbers for the Flyers. Sloan led all players with 15 kills for Dayton, while Brown hit .600 with 14 kills.

The fifth set featured nearly flawless play by Dayton — the Flyers hit .421 and only committed two errors. After an early 4-2 lead for VCU in the tie breaking set, Dayton went on a 6-1 run and never looked back.

“This team really fights,” Rogers said. “We’ve come a long way since the start of the season, and I’m proud of what this group, young as they are, has been able to accomplish. We’re learn from this and get ready for next year.”

Duquesne:

The fifth-seeded Rams beat Duquesne 3-1 on Friday, knocking the fourth-seeded Dukes out of postseason play. The last time the the Dukes and Rams met in October, the Dukes came out with the 3-1 win in Pittsburgh.   VCU returned the favor and won in four sets, sending them to the semifinal.

VCU improved to 19-13, dominating Duquesne. The Rams attack was led by Sneed, who tallied 11 blocks and 12 kills.

Sneed was named to the A-10 All-Rookie team, and showed her mettle by hitting .364 and combining with her teammates for sixteen blocks. Giommarini kicked in 13 kills, as well as 10 digs, while Baldwin and Julia Adler had nine kills each and a combined for twelve blocks.

After falling in the first set, VCU won three straight to end the match, eliminating several small deficits and hardly ever looking back.

A hard-fought 30-28 win in the second set gave the Black and Gold the momentum they needed, helped by a double block from Sneed.

“It was nerve-racking, but we fought, and we battled,” Rodgers said. “This was a great team win. They were resilient. The teams that advance are the ones that battle.”  

The Rams will end with a 19-14 record in their fourth season under Rogers. Only one senior will leave the team, Sydney Cooper, who was unable to play this season due to an injury. With much of the same squad likely returning next season, the Rams look ahead to 2017 with high hopes.


Adam Cheek, Contributing Writer

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