Aug. 26, 2012
PHILADELPHIA - A day after opening the season with two straight wins, Bucknell volleyball ran up against some tough opponents and fell in straight sets to Niagara and Loyola (Ill.) in the La Salle Invitational finale. The Bison opened the day with a hard-fought 28-26, 25-19, 25-23 decision against the Purple Eagles (1-2), followed by a 25-23, 25-16, 25-16 loss to the Ramblers (4-0). After four matches, Kebah Edoho (Odenton, Md./Arundel) led Bucknell with 32 kills and 13 blocks.
Edoho's stats received a boost from her effort against Niagara. The senior tallied 12 kills and hit .478 (12-1-22) in the contest. She finished the tournament with 2.29 kills per set and a .299 attack percentage. Both marks led the Bison for the weekend.
"Preseason play is an opportunity to challenge ourselves against some tough non-league opponents who are stronger than some of the teams we see in the Patriot League," said head coach Cindy Opalski. "I thought it was a good first weekend. It was positive."
Leading the offense against Loyola was Jessica Serrato (Millbrae, Calif./Saint Ignatius College Prep), who registered 10 kills, her highest total of the young season. The junior was the fifth different Bison to reach double-digit kills totals in four matches. Claire Healy (Tiburon, Calif./Saint Ignatius College Prep) had 10 kills in the season opener versus La Salle, while Edoho and Kristen Titley (Coral Gables, Fla./Palmer Trinity School) had 10 against Manhattan. Karen Campbell (Chesapeake, Va./Cape Henry Collegiate) also had 12 opposite the Jaspers.
Bucknell was forced to try to play catch-up through much of the bout with Niagara. The Bison nearly pulled off a first-set comeback, gaining their first lead at 26-25. The Purple Eagles' lead had hovered around four points for much of the frame until a kill from Edoho put Bucknell up by one. Ellen Senf then tallied two kills and an attack error from the Bison closed out the extended set in the Purple Eagles' favor.
Niagara maintained control for the remainder of play. While the Purple Eagles' attack percentage jumped to .316 in the second set, the Bison's took a hit and dropped to .103. By the end of the match, Niagara had topped Bucknell .275 to .179 in hitting.
Defensively, Morgan Mientus (Chicago, Ill./Saint Ignatius College Prep) finished with 24 digs. It was the second consecutive match in which she had surpassed the 20-dig mark. After again leading Bucknell in the stat against Loyola, the junior finished the weekend with 74 total digs, good for a 5.29 per set average.
Loyola remained undefeated in tournament play with its strong attack. The Ramblers finished the match with 44 kills and a .268 attack percentage compared to 25 kills and a .102 average for the Bison.
Just as had been the case in the day's first match, Bucknell had its best look in the opening set. The Bison led as late as 18-17 after a kill from Serrato and they were able to fight off three sets points, but the Ramblers claimed eight of the frame's final 13 points.
The final two sets followed similar trends in that the Bison were right in the hunt throughout the first half of play. Loyola proved to be the more powerful team down the stretch, however, and secured its fourth consecutive straight-sets win.
Kat Tauscher (Washington, D.C./National Cathedral School) posted the team high in assists in both of Sunday's matches. The senior tallied 14 against Niagara and 12 opposite Loyola. Freshman teammate Meghan Wentzel (San Anselmo, Calif./The Branson School) was close behind with 13 assists against Niagara and 10 against Loyola. Both Bison averaged better than four assists per set for the weekend.
Bucknell will take a brief break before heading to Pittsburgh for the Robert Morris/Duquesne Invitational. The Bison will take on Robert Morris at 4 p.m. on Friday, followed by Loyola (Md.) (3 p.m.) and Duquesne (7 p.m.) on Saturday.