DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A balanced attack led the Wildcats to a sweep over Westminster early Friday morning as they opened the season with a 3-0 victory in the first of four games in the Embry-Riddle Tournament.
Scores in the match in favor of Wayne State were 25-18, 25-23, 25-22. It was Wayne State’s first sweep in a season-opener since defeating Northwood (Mich.) in 2015. The Wildcats have won their last seven season-openers and are 13-1 in season-openers under the guidance of head coach Scott Kneifl.
The Wildcats entered a stalemate with the Griffins to start the first, going back and forth. Down 9-10, Wayne State rattled off six straight points to establish a 15-10 lead. Kills from sophomores Alyssa Ballenger and Allison Timmermans as well as forced errors helped keep distance as the Wildcats forced a timeout by Westminster up 19-14. Wayne State finished the rest of the first set at a 6-4 mark, giving the Wildcats a 25-18 win going into the second set.
The second set started as the first did, with both teams feeling each other out while trading blows with each other to a 10-10 mark. Back-to-back kills from Jaci Brahmer and Tarrin Beller sparked an 8-2 Wildcat run before the Griffins responded with three straight points of their own to force Wayne State into a timeout leading 18-15. Westminster came out of the timeout where they left off, tying the game at 18 before Wayne State could stop the bleeding. Neither team were able to extend the lead past one point, until a 3-0 Wildcat spurt from a Griffin service error and kills from Megan Gebhardt and Beller settled the second match 25-23, with Wayne State taking a 2-0 lead into the intermission.
Wayne State came out the gates firing on all cylinders in the third, taking an early 8-3 lead and never looking back. The Wildcats held a lead of as much as nine before a late comeback effort from Westminster fell short, as Wayne State fended off the Griffins to a 25-22 third set, giving the Cats a 3-0 win in their 2018 season-opener.
Beller led the Wildcats with a game-high 12 kills while recording three blocks. Ballenger contributed nine kills of her own. Gebhardt’s 29 assists were a game-high, while junior libero Haley Kauth and junior Katie Stephens steadied the defense with 12 and 10 digs respectively.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The trio of Alyssa Ballenger, Tarrin Beller and Jaci Brahmer combined for 29 kills on .410 hitting as Wayne State sweeps Lynn (Fla.) in the second game of the Embry-Riddle Tournament.
Scores of the match in favor of Wayne State were 25-17, 25-13, 25-21. The Wildcats move to 2-0 on the season, the seventh straight season in which Wayne State started their first two games unbeaten.
Coming off of an early morning victory, the Wildcats looked to continue where they left off. A 4-0 start to the game for Wayne State helped set the tone for the rest of the set. The Wildcats were never tied or trailing in the first set, eventually taking claim with a 25-17 mark. Wayne State held Lynn to a .119 hitting percentage, while recording 14 kills on .306 hitting.
After a back and forth 4-4 start to the second, Ballenger and Brahmer led a 5-1 charge for the Cats, with three and two kills respectively off of senior Megan Gebhardt’s assists. The two provided eight of the first 10 points for Wayne State as they began to separate themselves from the Fighting Knights. Up 11-8, the Wildcats went on a 11-2 run to cruise to a comfortable 25-13 win. The Wildcats hit at a staggering .667 behind Ballenger’s six kills. Ballenger and Brahmer contributed defensively as well, recording two blocks a piece to help take a 2-0 lead into intermission.
It was the Golden Knights who came out of the intermission hot, holding an 8-6 advantage early on. Down 14-11, head coach Scott Kneifl was forced into calling a timeout. A Golden Knight service error followed by back to back aces by sophomore Maddie Duffy tied the match back up at 14-14, but the Wildcats found it hard to ride the momentum as Lynn was able to extend the lead back to 19-16. Wayne State showed some early season resiliency however, as they knocked off a 9-2 run to complete a comeback and a sweep.
Ballenger led the way with a game-high 11 kills, while Brahmer and Beller both accumulated nine kills each. Gebhardt was credited with 33 assists, and defensive stalwart Haley Kauth led Wildcats defensively with 16 digs. Ballenger, Brahmer and Maddie Knobbe finished the game with two blocks a piece.
The Wildcats play Valdosta State (Ga.) Saturday morning before a match with tournament hosts Embry-Riddle (Fla.) in the evening.