Niao MVP, Redbirds Win Nevada-Reno Tournament
Stacey Niao
Stacey Niao

Sep 7, 2013

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RENO, Nev. - The Illinois State volleyball team (6-1) defeated UC Davis (3-4) in a thrilling five-set match (22-25, 25-16, 17-25, 25-22, 15-12) Saturday, which resulted in a perfect tournament for the Redbirds and a tournament title. The victory solidified the best start to a season for the volleyball program since 1992.

Stacey Niao, who collected 38 kills, 39 digs and three solo blocks during the tournament, was selected as the tournament most valuable player (MVP). Brooklyn Hlafka collected 28 kills over the four matches, including a stellar .400 hitting performance against UC Davis, earning her a selection to the all-tournament team.

The first set began with solid offensive performances from both sides, as the Aggies, who were 3-0 in the tournament entering the match, hit a combined .308, while the Redbirds hit .323. Despite the better attack percentage for ISU, the Aggies combined for more kills (17), which ultimately proved to be the difference in the set. Tied 10-10, Devon Damelio clubbed four of her 19 total kills, allowing UCD to pull away and take the set, 25-22.

The Redbirds responded with a vengeance, as Niao collected five kills in the second set to highlight a dominant offensive performance, hitting .500 as a team. Ashley Rosch added four kills, Kaitlyn Early picked up two service aces and a solo block, and ISU responded by taking the second set, 25-16.

The tempo of the Redbird's offense fell apart in the third set, as ISU posted just nine kills against nine errors. The three-headed offensive monster of the Aggies, composed of Damelio, Katie Quinn and Kaylin Squyres, riddled the Redbird's defense, combining for seven kills in the set and helping the Aggies to a third set victory, 25-17.

With their backs against the wall, the Redbirds responded in the fourth set, trading jabs with the Aggies throughout. Led by Rosch, who had four kills, and two critical kills by Emily Schneider, ISU weathered the storm to force a decisive fifth set.

Needing a spark to earn the victory, Hlafka ignited the offense in the fifth set, picking up five kills on an aggressive assault of the Aggie defense. Defensively, Emily Orrick kept several long rallies alive for Illinois State with exceptional court awareness, and the Redbirds locked up the final set, 15-12.

The Redbirds will return to action next weekend, Sept. 13-14, at the Butler tournament in Indianapolis, Ind.

All-Tournament Team

Stacey Niao (ISU) - MVP

Brooklyn Hlafka (ISU)

Devin Damelio (UCD)

Katie Quinn (UCD)

Sam Willoughby (UNR)

Kara Kasser (UNR)

Mackenzie Phelps (GCU)

Kaitlyn Ausmus (GCU)

Megan Bean (WSU)

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