Pioneers Take Third-Straight Regular-Season Championship
Denver will be the top seed in the Summit League Tournament
Nov. 13, 2016
BOX SCORE | SUMMIT LEAGUE TOURNAMENT BRACKET
With the win, Denver (21-7, 13-3 SL) will share the championship belt with South Dakota after finishing with the same Summit League record, but the Pioneers own the tiebreaker over the Coyotes with the win today over the Bison (13-17, 11-5 SL) and will be the top seed in the Summit League Tournament taking place at Hamilton Gymnasium later in the week.
“I’m extremely proud of our entire team,” said head coach Tom Hogan. “The players and the staff knew we would have to battle this weekend on the road against the second and third place teams in our conference.
“We fought extremely hard in both five-set matches and to walk away with a conference championship and taking the top seed on tie-breakers is something special.”
Denver (2014-16) joins IUPUI (2012-14), NDSU (2008-11), Valparaiso (2003-05) and Oral Roberts (1997-2002) as the only teams to win at least a share of the Summit League regular-season volleyball championship in three or more consecutive seasons in league history.
DU took home the five-set decision thanks to an all-around effort on the offensive side of the net. Kayla Principato connected on a career-high 21 kills with a .353 swing percentage to supplement the team mark of .306, while Monique Domme drove the high-octane attack and tied her career-best with 43 assists to go with her eighth double-double of the 2016 campaign behind 12 digs.
Nola Basey and Moni Corrujedo both joined Domme in the double-double category as Basey finished with 10 kills at a .300 rate coupled with 18 digs, while Corrujedo posted 12 kills and 13 digs on the match.
A total of five Pioneers finished with at least 10 kills, as Ruth Okoye ended with 13 on a blistering .423 percentage, while Emma Willis helped spearhead the dual-pronged look up the middle with 11 and a .455 clip. Becca Latham just missed out on the kill party but still ended with nine in the afternoon.
Cassidy Rooke capped off one of her best weekends on the back line after scooping out 24 NDSU attacks, while Piyusha Boteju helped steer the offense with Domme and ended with 20 assists and eight digs.
The Bison had a trio finish with 14 kills, as Emily Minnick, Hadley Steffen and Erika Gelzinyte spearheaded the offensive effort, Brianna Rasmusson added 44 assists and 12 digs, and three-time Defensive Player of the Week Mikaela Purnell finished with 23 digs while trying to contain Denver’s attack.
Denver hit .298 in the opening frame but couldn’t slow North Dakota State’s offense, finishing with a .429 mark.
Principato set the tone early with seven kills, while Willis added four of her own to go with Rooke digging out seven NDSU attacks.
The Bison controlled most of the first set, taking an early 5-2 lead and maintaining the cushion at 14-10 before DU fought for the tie at 15-15 and traded points with the home team en route to a 22-22 tie. NDSU fired off back-to-back kills from Minnick and Rasmusson for the first set point at 24-22, subsequently broken by Principato’s kill, but took the set behind a solo block from Alex Erickson for a 25-23 final
The Pioneers were firing on all cylinders, hitting .486 in the set, and limited the Bison to a .257 mark behind 17 Denver digs.
Corrujedo took over the offense with six kills as Okoye followed suit with five of her own while Domme became the go-to stopper on the back row with five digs.
Denver took over the second stanza, parlaying a 4-1 early advantage into a 17-7 lead midway through and cruised to a 25-16 final, punctuated by a kill down the middle from Okoye.
DU took a 2-1 lead in the match with a .238 clip as the defense made its presence felt in containing NDSU to a .119 mark.
Principato again fired off seven kills and posted two block assists alongside Okoye, while Domme had every look imaginable in recording 10 assists.
Both sides traded points through the majority of the set, highlighted by nine ties and four lead changes, with the score knotted at 18 apiece in the later portions. The Pioneers took four of the next five points for a 22-19 lead and held on for the 25-20 final.
Denver’s offense remained steady at .262 but couldn’t slow North Dakota State at .310.
Basey brought down four kills and six digs in the frame, while Domme added eight assists and Rooke tallied five digs of her own.
NDSU took the early lead at 4-2 but DU fought back for the first tie at 4-4 and turned the set into another back-and-forth affair in the early goings at 8-8. The Bison connected for a 5-1 run and held the advantage at 13-9, but couldn’t shake the Pioneers for long as the visitors forced another tie at 21-21.
It was the last point DU recorded in the set, unfortunately, as NDSU forced the fifth set behind a handful of Denver errors for a 25-21 final.
The Pioneers would not surrender their second five-set loss in as many matches, hitting only .240 in the decisive set, but held NDSU to a .050 mark behind 12 digs and a block.
Principato and Basey were given the go-ahead in the frame, both connecting for three kills, while Willis and Latham teamed up for the lone block.
Denver was in control early, owning a 4-1 lead and prompting a NDSU timeout with a 9-4 lead after switching sides. The Bison took their second timeout with DU owning an 11-5 lead in an attempt to swing the momentum back their way, but the Pioneers refused to slow down, getting a kill from Principato for the first of six match points and sealed the win behind a smash from Basey for a 15-9 final.
With four seniors making their impact in the match leading up to their final Summit League Tournament, Denver is ready for the next step in returning to the NCAA Tournament for the third year in a row.
“The leadership of our senior class has been a large reason for our success,” Hogan added. “As we head into the league tournament, I know they are focused on taking this team to the next level.”
The Summit League tournament field has been set after the final day of league play as Denver sits at the top and owning a bye with two-seed South Dakota. NDSU owns the third seed and will face IUPUI in the second quarterfinals at 7:30 p.m. MT on Friday, November 18, while Fort Wayne sits in the fourth position and will take on Oral Roberts in the first quarterfinal matchup at 5 p.m. MT.
The Pioneers will face the winner of the Fort Wayne/Oral Roberts matchup on Saturday, November 19, at 5 p.m. MT, while South Dakota will take on the winner of NDSU/IUPUI at 7:30 p.m. MT.
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