Pioneers Drop Regular Season Finale against 49ers
Denver awaits selection show on Sunday, Nov. 27 for NCAA Opening Round foe
Nov. 26, 2016
LONG BEACH, Calif. - Closing out the regular-season on the road, the University of Denver volleyball team fell to Long Beach State today in four sets, 25-20, 25-19, 21-25 and 25-16, in a final tune-up match before the NCAA Tournament.
"At times we played at a high level and we were very competitive and consistent," said head coach Tom Hogan. "We will learn a lot from this match as we prepare for the NCAA Tournament.
"We will be a better team from this experience."
The Pioneers (23-8) fought back in the third set against the 49ers (21-10), but ran out of steam in the fourth that nixed any chance to head into the postseason on a high note.
Kayla Principato spearheaded the attack, bringing home 13 kills and only one error for a .500 clip, coupled with a strong defensive look behind seven blocks, one solo and six assisted, while Moni Corrujedo smashed 10 kills for a .292 mark and added six digs. Emma Willis was the other steady hand for DU on both sides of the net, putting up five blocks assists and eight kills.
Monique Domme and Piyusha Boteju were limited on the offensive side, but still posted 17 and 11 assists, respectively, while Cassidy Rooke dug out the backline with 11 digs to go with her four service aces.
The 49ers had a trio lead their offense as Nele Barber tallied the lone double-double of the match with 18 kills and 15 digs, followed by 12 kills from Ashley Murray, while YiZhi Xue rounded out the look with 11 kills. Missy Owens made use of all her options, recording 49 assists over the four sets, while Kobi Pekich kept DU's potent offense at bay with 14 digs.
Denver hit .296 in the opener, but was outpaced by LBSU's hit mark of .452 despite the Pioneers finishing the set with two blocks.
Principato and Willis led the way with three kills apiece, while Willis added two block assists to Principato's one.
DU was down early at 9-4 and couldn't find the winning combination throughout most of the frame as Long Beach State kept the lead at 19-13 en route to a 25-20 final.
The Pioneers were still looking for the seams in LBSU's defense with a .219 mark, but couldn't slow the 49er attack behind a .361 swing percentage.
Nola Basey took over the offense with three kills, while Corrujedo, Principato and Willis each added two.
Denver faced another early deficit, trailing 6-2 early on, but fought back for a tie at 10-10 and took over the lead at 11-10. The 49ers came right back and took the next three points for a 13-11 advantage, while DU responded in kind and took the lead back at 14-13.
Unfortunately, the difference came from Long Beach State's 8-2 run at that point, parlaying a 21-16 advantage into a 25-19 final to put the Pioneers on the ropes.
DU refused to go down without a fight, putting together a strong look on both halves of the court with a .321 hitting efficiency while keeping LBSU to a .276 clip behind three blocks.
Principato showcased her skills with five kills and no errors, along with two block assists, while Corrujedo added four kills and Willis finished with three.
Rooke had a hand in the Pioneer's early 9-2 lead as she sent over three serves and returned with three aces with Denver keeping the seven-point cushion at 17-10 later on. The 49ers made a late push in the stanza, closing the gap down to 20-16 before narrowing DU's lead to two points at 23-21.
Principato took over from there and got help from Ruth Okoye, as the Rockville Centre, N.Y., native drove home a clean set from Domme for the 24th Pioneer point before teaming up with Okoye to put back an attack from Barber to close the set at 25-21.
Both offenses hit a rut in the finale as Denver hit .118 to LBSU's .220 rate in the set.
Principato finished errorless in the frame again, slamming home three kills and three blocks, one solo and two assisted, while Okoye and Corrujedo both added two kills.
The teams traded points early on with a knotted score at 6-6 before Long Beach State rattled off a 10-1 run to throw the Pioneers into a 16-7 deficit halfway through. DU was willing to climb the mountain, cutting LBSU's lead down to 19-15, but the 49ers rallied for six of the final seven points for a 25-16 final.
Denver will wait for the selection committee's decision tomorrow night to determine where the Pioneers will play in the NCAA Tournament. DU defeated South Dakota in four sets to clinch its third-straight Summit League Tournament Championship and the league's automatic berth into postseason play.
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