ROCKVILLE CENTRE, N.Y. - - The Wilmington University volleyball team opened its 2021 season with a pair of matches at the Molloy Invitational, splitting the day by dropping the opener to Gannon, but bouncing back and taking a 3-1 match over host Molloy on Friday.
MATCH 1 (25-14, 25-16, and 25-18):
The Wildcats were unable to get into a rhythm in the season opener, as Gannon outhit the Wildcats, .260 to .067, for the match. They also had more aces than the Wildcats, 9-3.
The Wildcats had the second set tied at 7-7, but the Knights took the next four points and held onto that four-point led until 17-13. Another 7-2 spurt opened up a 24-15 lead for the Knights but the Wildcats could only get one point back on a block from Jessica Connelly and Dorie Moore before the Knights went up 2-0, 25-16.
The Wildcats took a 6-5 lead early in the third set, but the Knights retaliated with 7-0 run to take control of the set, 12-6. Down 18-12, the Wildcats came back with a kill from Heather Pedrick and three straight blocks, closing to within 18-17, but could never get back over the hump. The Knights scored the next six points to gain match point, and then a kill ended it, 25-18.
MATCH 2 (25-23, 23-25, 25-13, and 25-23):
The Wildcats bounced back in the nightcap to pick up their first win of the 2021 season, a 3-1 victory over perennial ECC and East Region power Molloy. The Wildcats were down 19-13 in the fourth set before mounting a huge comeback to take the set, and the match.
The biggest difference in the nightcap was at the net, as the Wildcats out-blocked the Lions, 14-6. They also had nine more digs in the match than the Lions, leading to Molloy hitting just .039 for the match. The Wildcats hit .135 with 46 kills in the match.
Each set was a close battle with the first set seeing 15 ties and eight lead changes. The opening set was tied at each point in the 20s, until a service error by the Lions and a solo block by Heather Pedrick turned the tide, giving the Wildcats the set, 25-23.
The Wildcats scored the first four points of the second set, and led 14-8 midway through. But the Lions fought back and tied the set, 15-15, and led 20-17. The Wildcats got it to within 20-19, but three straight points gave the Lions a 23-19 lead. An error brought the Wildcats to within 24-23, but a service error tied the match, 1-1.
The Wildcats again jumped out early in the third set, leading by scores of 8-1 and 13-3. But the Lions fought back to within 14-10 before the Wildcats stemmed the tide and opened up another large lead, 20-11. Four straight points ended the set, 25-13.
Molloy raced out to a large lead in the fourth set, leading 19-13, making it look like the match was going to go to a fifth set. But a kill from Jessica Connelly started a 4-0 run. After the Lions gained a point, the Wildcats rattled off another four straight to bring it to within 21-20 and force Molloy into their second timeout. Out of the break, Elly Collins served an ace to tie the set before a Mandy Behiels kill gave the Wildcats a 23-21 lead. A block error gave the Wildcats match point and they eventually got it from Heather Pedrick on the right side, 25-23.
Heather Pedrick led the Wildcats with her first career triple double, putting down 11 kills while dishing out 19 assists and adding 15 digs. She becomes the fourth player in the program's NCAA era to achieve a triple double, joining Angie Estep (once), Alex Siolos (12 times), and Jill Braunsburg (nine times).
Mandy Behiels led the team with 12 kills, adding 11 digs for the double-double. Angel Oliver was the final Wildcat with double digit kills with 10, adding eight block assists as well. Katie Bushong dished out 17 assists while Grace Morton led the team with 18 digs.
The Wildcats have a short turnaround as they face off against national power Nebraska-Kearney on Saturday with a 9:00 a.m. first serve.