OXFORD — The Miami University volleyball team had a successful home opener, defeating Xavier, 3-1 (25-20, 16-25, 26-24, 25-15) on Tuesday. The RedHawks improve to 3-4 on the season, while the Musketeers fall to 3-4.
“It took us a little while to settle down as we hit game two, but I thought we had a solid first game,” said head coach Carolyn Condit. “But then we really found ourselves and kicked it in at the end of (set) three and throughout (set) four.”
Miami was led by the hot hitting of senior middle hitter Paige Hill and sophomore outside hitter Stela Kukoc. Hill had 12 kills on the night while making only three errors on 20 attempts for an attack percentage of .450. Kukoc tied for the team lead with 12 kills. She made only two errors on 28 attempts for an attack percentage of .357.
Tied at nine in set one kills from junior outside hitter Olivia Rusek and Hill along with an attack error from Xavier gave the RedHawks a three-point cushion. The Musketeers eventually were able to tie the score at 15. Tied at 17, MU took the lead for good after back-to-back kills by junior right side hitter Katie Tomasic and Rusek off assists from sophomore setter Mackenzie Zielinski made it 19-17. After Xavier pulled to within one at 20-21, four straight points including two from Hill off assists from senior setter Krista Brakauskas finished off the 25-20 win.
Hill recorded two kills, but Xavier had three blocks to help it build a 14-9 advantage in set two. Senior outside hitter Maris Below and Tomasic each had kills, but the Musketeers eventually made it 20-14. Kukoc scored the next point, but Xavier closed on a 5-1 run and took a 25-16 victory to even the match going into intermission.
Tomasic took over early in set three, putting down five kills in the first 19 points. Despite that, the RedHawks only had a 10-9 lead. Kills from Kukoc and Hill helped break the set open a bit as Miami pushed the lead to four at 16-12. Xavier fought back and tied the score at 18. After another Tomasic kill, the Musketeers scored three in a row to make it 21-19 and force a Miami timeout. Out of the break, back-to-back kills from Kukoc and junior middle hitter Meredith Stutz tied the score. The teams traded side outs, which eventually allowed Xavier to get set point at 24-23. Below fought it off to retie the score. A setting error by the Musketeers gave the ‘Hawks set point and they took advantage with a kill by Hill to win, 26-24.
The RedHawks used the momentum from the sudden turnaround at the end of set three to dominate set four. Two kills by Hill, along with kills from Kukoc, Tomasic and Below gave Miami a 9-4 lead. With the RedHawks on top 12-8, a 9-1 run broke the score wide open, putting MU on top, 21-9. During that stretch Kukoc put down two kills and a service ace, while Brakauskas had a service ace. That lead proved to be more than enough, as Rusek scored the final kill to finish off a 25-15 win and give Miami a 3-1 victory in the match.
Tomasic finished with 10 kills for the RedHawks, while Rusek and Below each had eight. Brakauskas had a double-double with 23 assists and 12 digs. Freshman libero Maeve McDonald led Miami with 15 digs. As a team, the Red and White hit .223, while holding Xavier to an .172 attack percentage.
Miami returns to action this weekend when it travels to Auburn, Alabama for the Auburn Invitational. On Friday, the RedHawks will take on Jacksonville at 10:30 a.m. (EDT) and the host Auburn Tigers at 8:30 p.m. (EDT). MU will conclude the tournament on Saturday with a match against Memphis at noon (EDT).