ROCKVILLE CENTRE, N.Y. - - The Wilmington University volleyball team wrapped up its season opening tournament on Saturday at Molloy, falling to nationally fourth ranked Nebraska-Kearney, 3-0, and nationally receiving votes American International, 3-1.
It was a block party in the nightcap against AIC, as Angel Oliver tied Brittany Biddle's single match mark of 10 block assists. The Wildcats 23 total blocks against the Yellow Jackets also set a new team record for a single match.
MATCH 1 (25-17, 25-12, 25-10):
The nationally fourth ranked Nebraska-Kearny team was too much for the Wildcats, as they held Wilmington to just .012 hitting while being able to put down 47 kills and hit .367 themselves for the match.
The Wildcats committed 13 errors in the first two sets combined, hitting negative 0.053 to set them behind in the match, 2-0.
Jessica Connelly and Heather Pedrick led the offense with five kills each in the match, with Pedrick also leading with 10 assists. Angel Oliver collected the lone solo block while adding five block assists. Elly Collins led the back row with 18 digs in the match.
MATCH 2 (21-25, 25-18, 25-20, 24-26, 15-12):
The defense stepped up in the nightcap, again facing off against a East Region perennial power in American International. They collected 72 digs, six solo blocks, and 34 block assists, setting a new single match program record with 23 total blocks. They out-blocked AIC, 23-6, in the match.
The main defender of the net was Angel Oliver, as she tied the program record with 10 block assists in the match. She added three solo blocks for eight total blocks in the match.
The Wildcats took the first set after breaking a 7-7 tie and never relinquishing the lead. They led by as many as three on multiple occasions, but then used a kill from Heather Pedrick and a block from Angel Oliver and Katie Bushong to go up 23-18. An Angel Oliver and Mandy Behiels block gave them set point before Katie Bushong put down a kill to go up, 1-0.
The Yellow Jackets raced out to an early lead in the second set before the Wildcats caught back up, but were still trailing 10-9. The Wildcats had it closed to within 15-14, but AIC used a 6-1 run to take a 21-15 lead. They scored the final two points of the set to take the game, 25-18.
The Wildcats led the third set, 9-8, before AIC scored six straight to take a 14-9 lead. The Wildcats got as close as 16-14, but a 5-1 spurt put the Yellow Jackets up 21-15. The Wildcats staved off one set point before AIC took the lead, 2-1, with a 25-20 game.
The Wildcats were down big late in the fourth set, but showed their resilience. They were down by as many as 10 points in the set, as late as 17-7. But an 8-0 WilmU run brought them right back, 17-15. A block, a kill from Kaiya Medina, and another block tied the set, 19-19. After a timeout and two points later, the Wildcats held a 21-19 lead following a Katie Bushong ace. The set was then tied at 22-22, 23-23, and 24-24 even after WilmU held a set point. But a service error gave the Wildcats a 25-24 lead and a bad set by AIC pushed the game into a fifth set, 26-24.
The fifth set saw 10 tied scores and three lead changes, tied as late as 12-12. But AIC came up with back-to-back kills to gain match point, and finished off the Wildcats with another kill out of a timeout, 15-12.
Mandy Behiels led the offense with 11 kills and had 12 digs for a double-double. Oliver added seven kills while Jessica Connelly and Dorie Moore added six kills each. Moore also had seven block assists in the match. Katie Bushong led with 17 assists while Elly Collins picked up 32 digs.
The Wildcats return home to host their Wildcat Regional Invite next weekend. They start with Franklin Pierce on Friday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. at the WU Athletics Complex.