AU wins two of three matches at the AU Volleyball Classic
Kazala, Largay named to the All-Tournament Team for the Eagles
AU defeated 2016 NCAA qualifiers Princeton and Howard and fell to Power 5 conference foe Iowa at the AU Volleyball Classic Friday and Saturday at Bender Arena.
Junior outside hitter Aleksandra Kazala and libero Kristan Largay led the Eagles, earning sports on the All-Tournament team. Kazala finished with 55 kills and 28 digs over the three games and Largay tallied 47 digs and four service aces. These were the final two matches before the Eagles begin Patriot League play next week.
“Overall, it was a good weekend, we’re getting somewhere with [our play] and we’re getting ready for the league [next week],” head coach Barry Goldberg said after the team’s final match against Howard. “We’re still trying to figure out lineups and who can help us in these big matches as we get going in the Patriot League.”
Beginning Friday night, Goldberg split game time between his two setters, junior Kennedy Etheridge and freshman Olivia Wassner. This was the first time in five years AU has rotated time with its setters, Goldberg said. Wassner finished the weekend with 57 assists and Etheridge added 47 assists.
The Eagles (7-6) began the weekend with a 25-21, 20-25, 25-19, 25-17 victory over Ivy League opponent Princeton (7-3). Junior setter Kennedy Etheridge tallied 23 assists and record ten consecutive points on her serve to help close out the match for the Eagles. Junior outside hitter Aleksandra Kazala led AU offensively with 23 kills, including four during Etheridge’s game-ending ten-point service run. Freshman outside hitter Helena Elbaek tallied 15 kills and junior middle blocker Cheyenne Orsi, playing for the injured Vela McBride, recorded 8 kills and 9 total blocks.
The Eagles held Princeton, the 2016 Ivy League champions, to a hitting percentage of 0.163 for the match and recorded 14 total team blocks. As a team, AU hit 0.266, including 0.355 in the game-clinching fourth set.
“I thought, defensively, when we were able to shut them down, they started to hit some different kind of balls and we were able to pick them up and hit back at them,” Goldberg said after the Princeton match Friday night. “When the defense is playing that well, you can convert offense. I thought this game would challenge our defense. It did and we stepped up.”
The Eagles opened the second day of action with a 25-21, 25-17, 25-15 loss against the Iowa Hawkeyes (11-2) from the Big Ten conference. They trailed for the duration of the first set, tying the score twice before Iowa’s strong outside attackers overwhelmed the Eagles’ defense. The Eagles jumped out to a quick four-point lead, but relinquished the lead at the midpoint of the set and never regained it in the remaining sets.
The Eagles struggled to find to a rhythm offensively against the Hawkeyes and managed only 27 kills for the match to Iowa’s 52. Kazala recorded over a third of the Eagles kills. Outside hitter and AU Volleyball Classic MVP Claire Sheehan, who recorded 19 kills, led the Hawkeyes.
“They executed both ends of the game well, they attacked well and scored points regularly and defensively,” Goldberg said after the match.They’re a good team, used to playing at the top level with the top teams and we’re earning our way up. It was a match to challenge and test us. We learned some things from it.”
AU concluded play with a 26-24, 25-22, 25-18 victory against cross-town opponents Howard (2-11). The Eagles started the match slowly offensively, managing an attacking percentage 0.146 in the first set, but improved and outlasted Howard in the first frame. AU hit 0.351 and 0.346 in the second and third sets respectively, with Kazala recording 18 of her game-high 22 kills in the final two sets.
Goldberg complimented his two All-Tournament selections, but stressed that he is still trying to find his best lineup heading into conference play.
“We have one big hitter [Kazala] and one good defender [Largay] and everyone else complementing them,” Goldberg said. “We tried some new things, saw some new things out of some players and we liked the effort they put in.”
The Eagles return with a home exhibition against Chinese Volleyball club Zhejiang Tuesday night before opening Patriot League play against Loyola University Maryland Friday evening in Bender Arena.