CLEVELAND, Ohio – Denison volleyball played to a doubleheader split on Saturday afternoon at day two of the 2019 Spartan Invitational held at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. After falling to host Case Western 3-0 (25-27, 18-25, 10-25) in the first match of the day, the Big Red rebounded in the second match with a 3-0 sweep of Utica College (25-14, 25-14, 25-12).
Against Utica, Denison opened the match with an 8-0 scoring run helped by a trio of kills from sophomore Payton McElfresh. Finishing the set with 11 kills and a .429 hit percentage, the Big Red increased their lead to 15-5 after junior Emma Woerner connected on a service to put DU ahead by 10.
Denison built their lead to as many as 11 throughout the set and totaled three of the final four points, including a service ace from Sidney Gossard, to put the Big Red in front, 1-0.
After DU forced Utica to commit 11 errors in the second set and claimed their second-straight 25-14 victory, the Big Red took early control in the final set after freshman Sophie Tight served Denison to a 10-0 lead thanks to kills from Tight, Alex Tubbs, Carly Tenaglia, and Kathryn Boyd. The deficit was too much for the Pioneers to endure as a kill from Tubbs and a Utica attacking error finalized the match and gave Denison their first win of the season.
Gossard and Tubbs led DU with five kills each on a total of 17 attempts. Freshman Natalie Hutras added a team-best eight digs while Tight finished with 21 assists. Utica's Eleanor Cepiel and Alicja Swiechowska posted four kills each while Casey Sims had 11 assists and Taylor Crowley finished with 10 digs.
In the first match of the day, the Big Red fell to an early 9-4 deficit in the first set, but five-straight points from junior Woerner tied the set at 9-9 and forced the Spartans to use a timeout.
The combination of Woerner and Lucy Anderson allowed DU to tie the set once again at 20-20, while kills from McElfresh and Gossard kept the opening set alive at 25-25. Despite the Big Red comeback, Case Western secured the final two points to take the set 27-25 and post an early 1-0 lead.
After CWRU opened the second set with a 4-0 advantage, the Big Red won 11 of the next 19 points thanks to kills from Gossard, Woerner, and Catherine Anderson to make the score 12-11. Still trailing 22-18, Denison was unable to take the lead as the Spartans tallied the final three points of the set to enter the final frame with a 2-0 lead.
Case Western secured the victory in the final set after a 15-2 scoring run helped the Spartans post 11 kills and a .455 hit percentage to move to 1-1 on the season. The Big Red suffered their second loss in as many matches.
Woerner led both sides with 11 kills on 21 attempts for a team-high .429 kill rate. Lucy Anderson added eight kills and four blocks, while Tight chipped in 28 assists and Marija Pavlick tallied 15 digs. CWRU's Karley King, Katie Kaminski, and Gianna Lambert each finished with eight kills. Faith Ellis posted 20 assists and Brianna Lemon chipped in 10 digs.
Denison will return to action this Tuesday, September 3 when they travel to Westerville, Ohio for a 7:30 p.m. matchup at Otterbein University.