RIO GRANDE, Ohio — For the University of Rio Grande volleyball team, Friday night’s get together with the University of the Cumberlands turned out to be special in more ways than one.
The RedStorm honored their lone senior and a departing junior prior to first serve and then avenged an earlier loss to UC with a 3-0 (25-20, 25-23, 25-15) Mid-South Conference victory over the Patriots at the Newt Oliver Arena.
Rio Grande improved to 11-15 overall and 5-11 in the MSC, taking another step toward securing a spot in the upcoming conference tournament later this month.
The win was also the 100th in the career of Rio head coach Billina Donaldson.
“I think we’re finally back to feeling comfortable with who is lined up across the net from us,” Donaldson said. “We did things tonight that looked like next-level volleyball. The girls were consistently talking to each other, even when we were down early in the first game. Earlier in the season, we would’ve gotten flustered and it would’ve been mistake after mistake.”
While senior defensive specialist Nicole Ogg (Albany, OH) and junior Jocelyn George (Cambridge, OH) were recognized and showered with gifts just before the beginning of the match, Cumberlands did its best to spoil the party early on.
The Patriots (17-8, 8-7) raced to a 5-1 in the opening set, but Rio continued to battle and eventually used a 5-0 run to turn a 10-8 deficit into a 13-10 lead - an advantage that the RedStorm maintained the remainder of the set.
UC did draw to within 21-20, but Rio scored the final four points to take a 1-0 lead.
Sets two and three were, for the most part, dominated by the RedStorm.
UC led set two early, 5-4, but Rio reeled off four straight winners and never trailed again. The Patriots tied set three at 1-1 and 3-3, but never led as the RedStorm finished off the sweep.
“We’re playing much better volleyball,” said Donaldson, “and we made the team on the other side of the net not play very well. They did a good job of making adjustments, but we were able to counter those adjustments.”
Cumberlands had just an .014 attack percentage, collecting just 20 kills against 18 errors in 140 attacks. The Patriots struggled mightily down the stretch, managing just four kills against 10 errors in 28 attacks.
Rio Grande turned things on in set three, recording 12 kills against just four errors in 23 attacks for a .348 attack percentage in the set. The RedStorm finished with a .173 attack percentage for the match.
Freshman right-side hitter/middle blocker Autumn Snider (Marion, OH) had 11 kills to pace Rio, while freshman setter/outside hitter Kayla Briley (Marion, OH) had a match-high 33 assists to go along with two blocks.
Freshman outside hitter/right-side hitter Chandler Brown (Beaver, OH) had a match-best 19 digs and two service aces, while Ogg finished with 17 digs.
Samantha Stuckwisch had 13 assists and nine digs to pace UC, while Kelsey Eastham had seven kills in a losing cause. Abby Dundon also had nine digs for the Patriots.
Rio Grande will close out the home portion of its schedule on Saturday morning when Cumberland (TN) University pays a visit for an 11 a.m. first serve.