At Tuesday night’s Dig for the Cure at Morrow Field House, SRU welcomed in the talented team of West Liberty. Per usual, Slippery Rock started off strong at home, feeding off the energy of the home crowd on their way to taking the first two sets. After finding themselves in a two-set deficit, West Liberty woke up and gave Slippery Rock a run for their money. The Green and White just could not deliver the kill shot, as the Slippery Rock faithful watched the Hilltoppers erase The Rock’s lead. Unfortunately, The Rock would fall in five sets after a hard-fought match.
In the first set, Slippery Rock came out firing as they stormed out to a 9-4 lead. The Rock would maintain that pace for the remainder of the first set, never relinquishing their lead on their way to a convincing 25-17 victory.
It was the same story in the second set, as the Green and White would open another early 10-6 lead. West Liberty briefly tested The Rock scoring the next four of five points cutting down Slippery Rock’s lead to a slim 11-10 advantage. After a timeout, SRU suffocated West Liberty’s attack and shelled their defense as well. Slippery Rock would score the next nine points, busting the set wide open. The Hill toppers could not recover from the SRU run, as The Rock would also take the second set by a score of 25-19.
After the second set, a Slippery Rock victory was more than likely, as the Green and White are undefeated this season after leading 2-0 in a match. But as American baseball legend Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” This was certainly the case last night as the Hilltoppers laid dormant during the first two sets but certainly came alive for the rest of the night.
In the third set, West Liberty would not go away as Slippery Rock continued to pound the ball. Countless seemingly miraculous digs by West Liberty followed by kill after kill from Olivia Baumhoer, who led the both teams with 20 kills, kept the Hill toppers a half step ahead of Slippery Rock. A set that featured numerous ties, The Rock could not seal the deal as they dropped the set by a score of 25-23.
The fourth set was quite possibly the most back and forth, highly contested sets The Rock has played this season. After SRU found themselves down early by a score of 10-6, The Rock would fight to keep themselves in it, eventually tying West Liberty at 23 points each. Once again, SRU was only two points away from securing their third straight victory, but the WLU stood up to the challenge. In a sensational effort by both teams, West Liberty and Slippery Rock went traded blows for the next 13 points, eventually leading up to a 30-29 Hill toppers advantage. Numerous ball handling and service errors plagued their comeback hopes as West Liberty took the fourth set by a score of 31-29.
Now faced with the pressure of losing three straight sets after winning the first two, it was evident that West Liberty had Slippery Rock’s number. After tying through the first eight points of the match, the Hilltoppers hopped out to an 8-5 lead, which proved to be too much for the Green and White to overcome. Despite a late surge, The Rock would fall in five sets to West Liberty with a final score of 15-12.
Despite the loss, Rock volleyball has certainly flashed great potential and the ability to go blow for blow with top-tier competition as they led West Liberty in multiple statistical categories such as kills (68-64), attack percentage (.232-.194) and aces (7-5). For the first time this season, four Rock players recorded 15 kills or more, as senior Beth Stumpf and freshman Gabby Huck led the team with 16 kills each. Sophomore Erinn Kahoe and junior Kaley Fucci amassed 15 kills, with Kahoe posting an impressive .424 attack percentage.
Junior Zoe Rivet also had a career night, racking up 56 assists to go along with 15 digs. Sophomore Jalyn Willard also continued her impressive defensive pedigree, as she registered 19 digs while serving up two aces, just one behind Kahoe’s three ace performance.
As mentioned above, Tuesday’s event was bigger than volleyball or any sport for that matter, as it was the Dig for the Cure event for breast cancer awareness. All funds raised on Tuesday night will be donated directly to the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition.
The Green and White will look to shake off a tough loss to West Liberty, as they get back into PSAC action this Friday, traveling to face Shippensburg University at 7 p.m. on Friday.