Redbirds Hold Off Rally, Defeat Grand Canyon 3-2
Stacey Niao
Stacey Niao

Sep 6, 2013

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RENO, Nev. - The Illinois State volleyball team (3-1) defeated Grand Canyon (0-3) in the fifth-set (25-12, 25-16, 17-25, 16-25, 15-12) Friday, earning a victory in the first of four matches scheduled for ISU at the Nevada-Reno tournament. Junior captain Stacey Niao willed the Redbirds to victory, recording a double-double on 10 kills and 20 digs, while helping ISU hold off a fierce rally by Grand Canyon.

Seven players collected at least five kills, as junior Kaitlyn Early picked up 44 assists while spreading the ball around to the oft-changing Redbird lineup. Junior Emily Schneider, coming off an all-tournament selection last weekend, contributed 12 points on nine kills while hitting .300, in addition to a solo block and four block assists.

Four early Grand Canyon errors allowed the Redbirds to open up the score, taking a swift 6-1 lead in the first set. Two kills each by sophomore Ashley Rosch, senior LeighAnn Hranka and Schneider highlighted a long stretch of play that was filled with quick points, giving the Redbirds a 20-10 lead. Kills by Hranka and Reno-native Ciera Lucich combined with three GCU errors allowed ISU to lock up the first set, 25-12.

A lopsided offensive attack in the second set produced a lot of the same action from the first set, as the Redbirds enjoyed a .257 hitting percentage advantage over Grand Canyon's -.056 percentage. Junior Eliza Smith and Schneider each had three kills, and ISU led by as many as 10 points while defeating the `Lopes in the second set, 25-16.

The third set signaled a change of pace however, as Megan Davis of Grand Canyon put on an offensive clinic. Davis collected 8 kills while helping the `Lopes to a substantial lead, jumping out in front 18-8. The Redbirds showed signs of rallying, but a steady attack by Davis and Kaitlynn Ausmus, who had six kills in the set, secured the victory for GCU, winning the third set 25-17.

The fourth set began with the most efficient offensive performances by either of the teams, as only three errors were recorded during back-and-forth action, putting the teams at a 10-10 score. Davis and Ausmus would ignite the `Lopes offense however, as they would string together a nine to one run, creating a dominant lead, 19-11. Ausmus picked up three more kills en route to helping GCU solidify the fourth set, 25-16.

Forced to a decisive fifth-set, and with their backs up against the wall trailing 12-9, the Redbirds were ignited by one of the new faces to the team this season. Emily Orrick, a junior transfer from Lincoln Land, picked up 4 digs in the final few points and fought to bring the Redbirds back. Orrick kept multiple points alive with outstanding hustle, and two kills by Rosch, a kill by Hlafka, and a service ace by Early pushed the `Birds to victory, winning the final set 15-12.

The Redbirds will face tournament host Nevada at 8:30 p.m. (CT) Friday, followed by games against Weber State at 11 a.m. (CT) and UC Davis at 6:30 p.m. (CT) Saturday.

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