Wildcats suffer first loss in Oklahoma

No. 20-ranked Wayne State ran its record to 7-0 before losing its first match of the year on the final day of the South Central Volleyball Classic Saturday in Durant, Okla.

In the first match of the day, the Wildcats used a balanced and efficient offensive attack while forcing 26 attack errors to defeat host Southeastern Oklahoma State 25-14, 25-21 and 25-20.
The Wildcats controlled the first set of the match, but had to rally late in the second and third sets to complete the sweep over the host school of the tournament.

In the first set, WSC was down 3-2 when junior Morgan Alexander served seven straight points that included two service aces to give the Wildcats a commanding 10-3 lead. The Wildcats extended their lead in the set and finished with 11 kills and just two attack errors while forcing the Savage Storm into 10 attack errors.

Wayne State got down 5-0 early in the second set and still trailed 18-16 until taking their first lead of the set. Tied at 18-18, middle hitter Tarrin Beller produced back-to-back kills to give the Wildcats the lead for good at 20-18. After SOSU got within one at 21-20, Wayne State used another Beller kill along with a solo block from sophomore Maddie Knobbe and a kill by Alyssa Ballenger on set point to give Wayne State the 2-0 lead.

The Wildcats trailed for a good share of the third set also, but after eight ties and five lead changes, surged at the end of the set to put away the Savage Storm to complete the sweep. Ballenger came up big for the Wildcats late in the set, recording three straight kills after the score was tied at 18-18 to give the Wildcats the momentum along with an SOSU attack error that gave Wayne State four straight points. The match ended on a block by Ballenger and Jaci Brahmer, Wayne State’s 11th of the match, to seal the win.

Wayne State hit .305 for the match with 38 kills on 95 attempts and just nine attack errors. The Wildcats held Southeastern Oklahoma State to a .120 attack percentage with 40 kills and 26 errors on 117 attacks. Wayne State had an 11-3 advantage in blocks and had five service aces to just two for the Savage Storm.

Beller and Katie Stephens led a balanced attack for the Wildcats. Stephens had a double-double with 10 kills and 12 digs while Beller connected on 10 kills with a .400 attack percentage. Brahmer accounted for six blocks with setter Megan Gebhardt adding five along with 33 set assists. Alexander had two of Wayne State’s five service aces in the win.

In the final match of the day, double-doubles by Stephens and Brahmer weren’t enough as 19th ranked Central Oklahoma outlasted the Wildcats in four sets, 25-21, 17-25, 26-24, 25-22.

Central Oklahoma led from start to finish in the first set. Trailing by as much as four points, Wayne State crept to within one point on several occasions, with the last time coming at 21-20 following a UCO attack error before the Bronchos scored four of the final five points to close out the set.

The Wildcats bounced back with the momentum in the second set, taking an early 6-2 lead to force a Central Oklahoma timeout. Wayne State extended the lead throughout the set, leading 22-12, before finishing off the set to tie the match at a set apiece.

Wayne State led a majority of the third set until a late rally by Central Oklahoma lifted the Bronchos to the 2-1 lead. The Wildcats jumped out to a 10-3 advantage, fueled by a pair of service aces from Alyssa Ballenger, but Central Oklahoma slowly came back and forced a Wildcat timeout. The teams traded points and were tied at 24-24 until Central Oklahoma used a kill and service ace to edge the Wildcats and take the third set.

Central Oklahoma never trailed in the fourth set, although Wayne State rallied from a 17-10 deficit to get as close as one point at 21-20 following a Beller kill, but UCO scored the next two points to go back up 23-20 and finished off the match to hand the Wildcats their first loss of the season.

Wayne State outhit Central Oklahoma in the contest .182 to .135. The Wildcats had 51 kills and 19 errors on 176 attacks while UCO recorded 53 kills and 30 errors on 171 total attacks. Central Oklahoma had one more service ace than WSC, 7-6, while the Wildcats held a 13-9 edge in blocks over the Bronchos.

Stephens produced 15 kills and 15 digs while Brahmer accounted for 14 kills and 10 blocks at the net. Gebhardt had 43 assists while libero Haley Kauth had 28 digs. Ballenger had three of Wayne State’s six service aces in the match.

Wayne State, 7-1, opens Northern Sun Conference play Thursday evening at Sioux Falls in a 6 p.m. contest.

The Wayne Herald

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