Aug. 25, 2012
PHILADELPHIA - Loyola served up 12 aces at the service line, eight in the opening set to compensate for a slow start, and stayed tough down the stretch of each set to earn its second victory of the day, a 3-0 (29-27, 25-23, 26-24) sweep of defending MAAC champion Niagara this afternoon at the La Salle Invitational. The win gives Loyola just its second 2-0 start since 1996, the other coming in 2008.
"This was a good win for us and a good step for the team," said head coach Chris Muscat. "We were able to work our way through a tough match, make some adjustments and stay strong down the stretch."
After enjoying early leads in today's first match against Manhattan, Loyola was forced to play from behind from the opening serve as Niagara jumped out to leads of 3-0, 5-1 and 8-3 in the early stages. A Laura Purcell kill helped the Ramblers find their feet and Vicki Wrobel served up two aces to make it an 8-7 game. The Purple Eagles managed to slowly extend their lead and led 15-11 after a service error. Senior Anna Eytchison took over from there, pounding back-to-back kills before serving up four straight aces to give the Ramblers a 17-15 lead. A Purcell kill moments later gave LU a three-point edge (19-16) but Niagara rattled off the next three point to draw even and the teams battled towards the finish line. A Libby Bresser kill gave Loyola a 24-22 lead and first crack at the opening set but a service error, a Kari Honomichl kill and a Michelle James ace saw Niagara earn a set point. Eytchison erased that with a kill and Purcell followed with another of her own as the set carried on and Loyola finally cashed in its fifth set point with a Bresser solo block to close out a 29-27 win.
The second set was tight early on as neither team was able to gain any breathing room. A Brittany Brown ace tied it at 11-all, the sixth deadlock of the set, but Niagara was finally able to string some points together, rattling off five straight to snatch a 16-11 lead. The Ramblers still trailed 18-13 when it made its move, as two kills from Kathleen Vogel and one from Eytchison pulled LU within a pair (18-16). A Vogel ace later combined with a Brown kill and a Niagara hitting error put the Ramblers on top 22-21 and set up a frantic finish. The teams traded points all the way to 24-23 where another solo block, this time from Nichole Riedel, gave Loyola a 25-23 win and a 2-0 lead in the match.
Niagara scored three of the first four points in the third set but a Vogel ace and kills from Bresser, Eytchison and libero Stephanie Kinane highlighted a 7-0 scoring run that gave Loyola an 8-3 advantage. The Purple Eagles hung tough and managed to slowly chip away at the lead, eventually grabbing a 16-15 lead after an Ellen Senf kill. Kills from Eytchison and Brown sandwiched a Niagara error as the Ramblers regained the lead and they kept pushing, taking a 23-19 lead on a Purcell kill. Niagara mounted one last push, scoring three consecutive points to get within one (23-22) and erased a LU match point later, drawing even at 24 courtesy of a Honomichl kill. However, a service error gave Loyola a second chance and that would be all it would need as Eytchison's 17 and final kill closed out the win.
"The make up of this team is such that they enjoy the challenge of closing out sets," continued Muscat. "They put themselves in good position at the 20-point mark then get stronger at the end. Collectively, they get more aggressive at the end instead of more passive and just enjoy the moment and thrive."
After slamming 21 kills in the morning match, Eytchison followed that up with 17 kills and five aces in this win. Purcell also had a solid day, adding 12 kills, while Brown added seven kills (7-0-10, .700), 34 assists and nine digs from her setter position. Kinane and Vogel (four aces) led the defensive charge with 15 digs apiece with Wrobel adding seven and a pair of aces.
The Ramblers close out tournament play with two more matches tomorrow, beginning with an 8 a.m. contest against homestanding La Salle.