Volleyball completes three-game sweep of IUPUI on senior night


Volleyball celebrates a point during their match sweep of IUPUI. Photo Credit: Tyler Gallo

By Austin Bechtold, Contributor

MOON TOWNSHIP– After taking down the winless IUPUI Jaguars in four sets on Monday, Robert Morris swept up any mess from yesterday’s first set loss, winning the next two sets and picking up right where they left off on Tuesday with a 3-0 victory on senior night.

RMU (3-11, 3-11) has now won three matches in a row while IUPUI (0-10, 0-10) will continue to search for their first victory with one week of play remaining.

The Colonials started six seniors as a part of senior night festivities, with Erika Wilt, Whitney Brown, Skylar Clements, Maria Alfano, Emma Granger, and Mirna Sarjanovic all taking the court alongside Nikolette Zanolli at libero and fellow senior Alyson Londot entering only a few points into the match.

The Colonials enforced their will on the Jaguars as Maria Alfano recorded a dominating solo block to give RMU a 7-4 lead, establishing an early tone and confidence for the match.

Both teams traded the next few points before Emma Granger exalted her will on IUPUI with a kill and three total blocks, leading to a Jaguars timeout at 14-10.

Granger followed the time enforcing her ruthless serving and pushing the RMU lead to 18-10 thanks in part to two aces before missing her next serve.

RMU’s defense and offensive firepower was on full display for the rest of the set, running away with a 25-12 Sarjanovic led the Colonials with four early kills.

Head coach Dale Starr alluded to his team’s smooth-running offense against the Jaguars.

“I thought offensively we were efficient, we made a few hitting errors here and there but not nearly as bad as it has been, so that’s something to continue to get better at.”

Sarjanovic’s serving placement was critical to Robert Morris jumping to an eye-opening 7-1 lead for the home team, resulting in an IUPUI timeout.

Whitney Brown displayed her strong setter hands with a dump into zone four to catch the Jaguars napping and continue the Colonials’ fluid offensive display.

After slowing down the pace of the set, IUPUI battled back to even it up at 11 and force Starr to use his first timeout of the match.

“Our first contact was good tonight, our serve-pass game was also good. We had a lull in the second set when we were up 9-1 and then, all of the sudden, it was 11-11. That was the only breakdown we had in the first contact, but everything else was good.”

Maria Alfano began a run to stake the Colonials to a 16-12 lead and the Jaguars’ second timeout of the second set.

This continued the theme of strong play by RMU’s senior leadership, with all seven seniors contributing in their own way for the program and taking set two by a 25-20 final with a Sarjanovic kill to zone one disrupting IUPUI’s back row and forcing another errant dig attempt.

RMU’s block had a strong showing in the front row blocking for the Colonial defense, with Clements and Granger leading the charge.

“I’m glad they all played well tonight, I’m glad they got a win. Mirna has been slow to regain her form following her injury, but she had a heck of a match tonight,” Starr said. “Skylar did a good job with the block to help us win. She puts up a big block, you put her and Emma Granger next to each other and that’s something big to swing at.”

Robert Morris continued to play well and hold the lead, but the Jaguars put up a strong fight to keep the third set close, taking a 14-13 lead halfway through the final set. RMU regained a one-point advantage at 15-14 at the media timeout.

IUPUI called time after the Colonials jumped out to four-straight points out of the break, increasing the lead to 18-14 before again stopping action two points later to talk it over, still looking for their first win of the 2021 spring season.

Robert Morris dominated the rest of the way, securing a 25-16 final score and 3-0 match sweep.

The match becomes the first series win for Robert Morris in their new conference after convincingly sealing the victory down the stretch in each set.

“You have to figure out how to win in a new conference. This conference is markedly tougher than the NEC,” Starr said. “Coming in and getting two against a team that’s been in the Horizon for a long time shows us that we can play well enough with the teams in the bottom and middle of the pack. We have to figure out how to play well enough with the ones who are at the top. We’ll miss the veteran presence [of the seniors].”

The Colonials had a field day against the opposing block with a 40-25 advantage in kills, a discrepancy similar to the ones seen when RMU steamrolled through the NEC regular-season in 2019. Robert Morris also blew past the Jaguars in terms of hitting percentage, with a .252 mark compared to a staggeringly low .028 for the visitors.

Alfano led all players with 13 kills for Robert Morris with Sarjanovic totaling 12 kills along with two aces, tied with Granger for RMU’s match-high of six. Allie Pogue took the crown for most kills for the Jaguars with 11.

After the match, Robert Morris honored Wilt, Brown, Clements, Alfano, Sarjanovic, and Lauren Kolenik, who graduated in the fall, with honorary tribute videos from their families. Granger and Londot are both set to return for a fifth season of eligibility next season after opting to take the additional year and play in the fall one final time.

“I’m just glad to see them go out on a win after an incredibly trying season and last year where their senior years were in doubt for a long time,” Starr said. “To play this match and honor them and go out on a win is something special and something they will remember for a long time.”

Robert Morris is scheduled to host Northern Kentucky on Monday, March 22 for a double-header at the UPMC Events Center beginning at 3 p.m. and commencing with game two at 6 p.m. to close out the first season of Horizon League competition for the Colonials.