Nov. 10, 2017
DENVER— This time of year, every point becomes tougher and the wins become more significant, yet harder to achieve.
The University of Denver volleyball team showed its grit and resolve Friday evening against South Dakota on the road, coming back from down 2-1 to win the match in five (15-25, 25-20, 19-25, 25-20, 15-11).
The victory moves DU to 20-5 on the season and an even more critical 11-2 in the Summit League with one match remaining. With the win, Denver clinched the No. 1 seed at next week's volleyball tournament.
Kayla Principato (19) and Cassie Baird (15) led the Pioneers in kills in the match, with each having career-high in attacks at 58 and 46, respectively. Baird added a career-high 19 digs on the night for a double-double, joining Ellie Anderson (21 assists, career-high 17 digs) and Piyusha Boteju (23 assists, career-high 23 digs) in that feat. Cassidy Rooke and Macy Carrabine each had double digits in digs, contributing 15 apiece. Baird had an all-around solid match, leading the team with a career-high six assisted blocks and three service aces as well, including an ace to seal the win for the visitors.
As a team, Denver hit .131 on 57 kills behind 213 attempts, 54 assists, 113 digs, six service aces and 10.5 total blocks. The numbers for South Dakota were just as staggering, with the Coyotes hitting .105 on 51 kills on 210 attempts, 47 assists, 116 digs, eight service aces and 12 team blocks.
Set One: Denver scored the first two points of the match, but South Dakota responded with the next seven points, leading to an early timeout for DU. Out of the break, the Pioneers scored the next three points to cut the lead to two at 7-5. Denver once again got the lead back down to two at 10-8, with a 4-0 run; however, South Dakota was able to stretch the lead to eight at 16-8 with a 6-0 run. DU wasn’t able to get any closer than six at 16-10, and dropped the set 25-15. Denver hit .000 in the first set, with only five kills. Baird and Tina Boe combined for the only block in the set for DU.
Set Two: DU got off to a 4-1 lead behind two blocks by Emma Willis and Baird and a kill by Baird. For good measure, Baird also added an ace to make it 5-1 Denver. South Dakota closed in on Denver to make it 6-5, but a Boteju service ace and Coyote attack error pushed the lead back to three at 8-5. The Pioneers doubled up USD, 12-6, behind a kill by Principato and Baird and an ace by Carrabine, in the midst of a 7-0 run to stretch the lead to 15-6. A kill by Principato and a Willis/ Becca Latham block made it 17-8, which would stretch the lead to as far as it would get. The Coyotes cut it down to three at 23-20, but Latham recorded back-to-back kills to secure the set 25-20 for the Pioneers and even the match at one set. Denver hit .211 in the second frame on 13 kills, with Principato, Baird and Latham each registering four kills. Anderson had seven digs and six (of the team’s 12) assists to lead the Pioneers in both categories in the set. DU had four total team blocks, all assisted, with Willis combining with Baird on two, and with Latham on another. Boe and Baird combined on the remaining block.
Set Three: Becca Mau recorded three early kills to keep the Pioneers close at 7-5 Coyotes after South Dakota scored the first four points of the set. At that point, South Dakota used a 4-1 run to push the lead back out at 11-6. The lead would get to 18-10 before DU went on a 4-0 run with kills by Mau and Latham and an attack error by USD, cutting the lead to four at 18-14. Denver fought back to get as close as two at 19-17 and again at 20-18, but South Dakota closed on a 5-1 run to take set three by a score of 25-19. Denver hit .070 with 13 kills in the set, with Mau and Principato recording four each, and Boteju assisting on six points. Anderson added eight digs in the set.
Set Four: Down 2-1 in the match for the third time this year, and entering the match 0-2 in the scenario, the Pioneers had their backs against the wall. Denver got kills from Principato, Baird and Willis to open the set, and added a Boteju service ace to take the 4-0 early lead. The lead would grow to seven at 9-2, forcing a South Dakota timeout. South Dakota went on a 7-3 run to cut the DU lead to three at 12-9, but out of the Denver timeout, Baird and Boe combined for a block and Baird added two kills to keep USD at a distance at 15-9. A Willis kill later pushed the lead back to six at 18-12, causing another timeout by South Dakota. Out of that timeout, Baird served another ace and Principato added a kill for the eight point advantage. Once again, South Dakota made a run at the lead, getting as close as 23-19 and 24-20, before Baird ended the set with the kill to extend the match. Denver hit a match-high .255 with 17 kills in the frame, with seven kills from Principato and six from Baird. Carrabine had eight digs for the Pioneers and Boteju had 10 of the team’s 17 assists. Willis and Principato also combined for a block.
Set Five: The Pioneers had only played one five set match this season, in its first league match against Fort Wayne, a match they would go on to win, so this was unfamiliar territory for the Crimson and Gold. It wasn’t looking good for DU early, as South Dakota jumped out to an early 6-3 advantage, and Denver had to call an early timeout. The timeout seemed to do the trick, however, as the Pioneers went on a 4-0 run with blocks by Boe and Latham, and Latham, Mau and Boe, and a kill by Principato, to take the 7-6 lead. A kill by Willis broke the 9-9 tie and from there the Pioneers closed the set on a 5-2 run. Down the stretch, Willis and Baird were clutch as each had two kills, would combine for a block and Baird closed the match with an ace for the DU win. Denver closed the match hitting .133 with nine kills, with Principato having three. Boteju and Anderson each had three assists and Boteju had six digs to lead the team.
UP NEXT: The Pioneers close out the regular season on Sunday at Western Illinois. The WIU Leathernecks lost to North Dakota State on Friday evening in four sets (19-25, 25-19, 17-25, 21-25). With one match remaining for DU, the Crimson and Gold hold a one game lead over Oral Roberts (14-12, 11-3 Summit), who fell to Omaha in straight sets in its final match of the regular season.
The ORU loss, combined with the DU win, secured the No. 1 seed for the Pioneers in the Summit League Tournament next week, regardless of what happens against WIU.
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