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Volleyball team starts season strong in arena debut

Originally published in the September 3, 2010 issue

The volleyball team opened its 2010 campaign in thrilling fashion, finishing second in the Hotels at Grand Prairie Invitational held in the brand new 4,200-seat on-campus arena.

The invitational marked the first event hosted in the arena, which opened its doors this summer.

The Braves first game of the round robin tournament pitted them against in-state rival Western Illinois.

Led by freshman Allie Falter’s 10 kills and five blocks, the team dominated the visiting Leathernecks in front of a record crowd sweeping all three games 33-31, 25-20, 25-15.

A record crowd of 1,752 fans witnessed the game, surpassing the previous mark of 1,313 set against Illinois State on Nov. 12, 1999.

The next match paired the Braves with University of South Carolina Upstate. In what was one of the most exciting matches of the invitational, Bradley held off its opponent in five sets, 25-14, 21-25, 20-25, 27-25, 17-15.

In the fourth set, the Braves trailed the Spartans 21-18 before going on a 5-1 spurt to regain the lead at 23-22. USC Upstate battled back to tie the set at 25-25. Bradley then got a kill from freshman Amy Angelos and an unforced error from the Spartans to force a fifth set.

The fifth and final set of the match featured four lead changes and 12 ties before the Braves broke through, sophomore Madelyn Ervin ended the match with her 12th kill to give the team the victory.

Freshman Lauren Zerante also contributed 12 kills while junior Annie Cave added 11 kills and 16 digs.

The final match of the weekend paired Bradley against Southeast Missouri State with the winner being crowned champion.

After dominating the opening set 25-15, the Braves faltered the rest of the way, losing three consecutive sets 21-25, 20-25, 17-25 to give SEMO the title.

Junior Megan Schmidt had a team-high 13 kills with Ervin right behind adding 12 of her own.

Despite the disappointing loss in the final match, sophomore Shelly Mueller said she was pleased with how the Braves competed.

“I feel that the team did great,” Mueller said. “We played with a lot of energy and we competed which is one of our main focuses this season.”

Sophomore Allie Gardner said the team’s play might be a sign of bigger things to come.

“I think it shows we have come a long way and have all the potential in the world,” Gardner said. “Every one of us came in with a drive and urgency to make this season unforgettable.”

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