The Bradley volleyball team struggled in its third week of competition dropping its home tournament last weekend and losing against Western Illinois on Tuesday.
Last Friday, Bradley hosted the CEFCU Classic at the Markin Family Student Recreation Center. Junior Caitlin Staib had a strong first match against University of Texas El Paso, tying for match-high honors with nine kills.
But Bradley came up short, hitting just .085 and serving up a season-low one service ace which led the team to a 25-20, 25-12, 25-15 loss against UTEP.
The Miners delivered a strong defense against the Braves, having a 42-35 edge in digs and serving up 11 aces in three sets.
The first set was close at 13-11 until UTEP took control with a 6-1 spurt, putting the team at a 19-12 advantage over the Braves.
Before the set was over, the Braves cut the deficit by four points, taking the score to 23-19 when UTEP’s Amy Sanders performed back-to-back kills, closing the first set at 25-20.
In the second set, Bradley hit .069 compared to UTEP’s .423, which led the Miners into a quick victory of 25-12 in the second set.
In the third set, UTEP used the momentum to build a 19-9 lead on the Braves. Bradley answered back, trimming the lead to seven points at 21-14, but could not take the win leaving the final set at 25-15, UTEP.
“Against UTEP we did not come out with the intensity and focus needed to win the match,” coach Sean Burdette said. “We made too many untimely and unforced errors to win the match. We need to have an entire team effort from start to finish at this point in the season and not rely on a couple of individuals.”
Staib matched her season-high kills with nine and sophomore Megan Schmidt gave a season-best eight digs along with her team-best five blocks. Freshman Skylar Leasn added 22 assists, seven digs and four blocks.
The tournament continued Saturday as Bradley swept Coppin State. Bradley started the first set strong with a 6-1 lead with the help of two kills each from senior Amy Reichel and Staib. Bradley took the lead to 11 points leaving them at 22-17. Coppin closed the gap by scoring six points but Bradley still claimed the set with a 25-17 victory.
Lesan’s spurt opened the second set with two services aces giving the Braves a 7-1 lead. Bradley pushed the advantage to 18-5 and finished the set 25-12.
Bradley again took the advantage early with a 6-1 lead in the third set. The Braves pushed the lead to 20-9 and closed the match with a 25-17 win in the third set.
Bradley’s hitting percentage trumped the Eagles’ .305 to .095 respectively. Lesan had a total of 39 assists, two aces and four digs in the match and sophomore Rachelle Dejean had a match-high 11 digs.
The Braves beat Montana in their final match of the invitational that Saturday afternoon.
Bradley had a hard first set against Montana, falling behind 5-2 early in the set, but shot ahead when sophomore Genevieve Dejean served nine consecutive points putting the Braves in the lead 11-5. Before the end of the set, Montana pulled within three points at 15-2 but freshman Jessica McNellis notched two kills and pushed the set to 20-13 BU. The Braves went on to take the first set 25-17.
The Bobcats went on the claim the second set after putting Bradley into a seven-point deficit. The Braves were able to make-up some ground but it wasn’t enough, leaving the set at 25-21 Montana.
Bradley wasn’t able to take control of the third set until late, after 11 ties and three lead changes. A kill by Reichel broke the 18-18 tie, and Rachelle Dejean followed with an ace. Bradley and Montana traded off kills until Bradley put the Bobcats into a three-point deficit and Reichel closed the game with a kill leaving the score at 25-21.
The fourth set had six lead changes and 10 ties before Bradley took the final lead. Montana had two errors in the set, which assisted the Braves into their 25-18 win in the final set.
“I thought at times we played well against Coppin State and Montana State,” Burdette said.
UTEP claimed the tournament title with its victory against Coppin late Saturday.
“We had different players peak at times during the matches, we are still looking for consistent play from start to finish from all the players on the floor,” Burdette said.
Reichel and sophomore middle blocker Megan Schmidt were named to the All-Tournament team.
The Braves had a match against Western Illinois on Tuesday and even though they had a 63-57 advantage in kills, a 59-53 advantage in assists and a 75-56 advantage in digs, they could not rally a victory.
Western took control quickly in the first set with a 7-0 spurt, giving Bradley an eight-point deficit at 22-14. Bradley’s hitting percentage was only .027 while WIU hit .200 allowing Leathernecks to take the set 25-17.
The second set closed with a 28-26 victory for WIU. The teams were tied at 26-26 until WIU’s Cait Egan delivered her 20th kill, to give her team the win.
Bradley was able to avoid the sweep in the third set with a 25-22 victory. A WIU error broke the 21-21 tie, and McNellis made a kill to give the Braves a 23-21 lead. A block from Schmidt allowed Bradley to post the win.
WIU started out the fourth set with an early 9-6 lead, but the Braves went on a 8-0 run and brought the score to 14-9. The Braves recorded 10 kills and pushed Bradley to a 25-18 victory.
In the fifth and final set, the Leathernecks started out strong with an 8-3 advantage. Bradley had a spurt outscoring WIU 9-5, but was stopped by kills from WIU. The Leathernecks took the fifth set 15-12.
“It was a difficult match in terms of what Western does offensively,” Burdette said. “They run a faster tempo offense and we did not adjust well to their middle attack.”
Next the volleyball team will travel to Creighton on Friday and Drake on Saturday.
“We are looking forward to starting conference play this weekend – it will be a new environment for our new players.” Burdette said. “Creighton has a brand-new arena that opened this fall so this will be a new experience for all of our players. We face two good teams in Creighton and Drake. We have a few more days of preparation to get ready for the road trip.”