Flames stifle Colonials in Chick-Fil-A Robinson Classic opener

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Photo by Ethan Morrison

The Colonials converge after a point in the Chick-Fil-A Robinson Classic opener.

By Tyler Gallo, Sports Editor

MOON TOWNSHIP– Fresh off of a sweep at the FDU Invitational and returning for some home cooking, Robert Morris volleyball was back in action for an early-morning tilt with Liberty in Game 1 of the Chick-Fil-A Robinson Classic.

Liberty (1-0), making their season debut, showed no rust in the match, winning in four sets over the Colonials (3-1), who found themselves battling from behind at some point in every set and losing an undefeated record.

Head coach Dale Starr noted the number of unforced errors the Colonials had in the first game and mentioned how they need to change that for the game later tonight.

“Looking at the stats, we gave away 23 points. That’s almost an entire set given away in one game,” Starr said. “We need to work on being more consistent against Idaho. Liberty is a good team, and they showed it today.”

The Flames and Colonials battled tough in the first set but Liberty gained an advantage after a few service errors and forced Dale Starr’s hand trailing 11-7. Some key blocks and acrobatic desperation dives to keep the ball in play put the Colonials on a 5-1 run and forced Liberty coach Trevor Johnson take a timeout with the score at 20-18 in favor of Liberty.

Finding new life after their timeout, Liberty regained their composure and sealed the set on another service error, this time by Emma Granger, winning a close one 25-21.

Things were looking bleak with a Liberty 5-1 run out of the gate in the second set, but RMU remained unphased, battling back to take the lead at 6-5. Liberty once again found the edge, coercing another Starr timeout with the score 17-12 Flames.

The halt in action served as a shot in the arm for the Colonial attack, going on a 5-0 run to knot the game back up and notch another Johnson timeout.

Robert Morris got its first lead after this and never looked back, finishing it off 25-19 with five consecutive points set up by freshman Jaidan Hockman, who also picked up a few aces in the process.

Starr mentioned the addition of the freshmen to the fold as well as Hockman’s presence in the rotation.

“Jaidan served us really well in that set,” he said. “All the freshmen are extremely talented but they’re also learning the ups and downs of being freshmen. The ups are really high and the downs are really low, so if we can find a median between that, they’ll be even better.”

The third set followed as yet another closely contested matchup, and Liberty had the late upper hand, leading the bout 19-16 heading into a media timeout. The Flames staved off a late comeback effort from Robert Morris with Trinity Watts hammering the final point to win it 25-20.

The Flames scorched the Colonials early on in the fourth set and were in prime position to snatch a victory in their season opener. RMU did battle back, getting the score as close as four points but their initial deficit proved to be too much to overcome, dropping the final set 25-15 with the final nail in the coffin belonging to Kennedy Sutter.

Fifth-year senior Emma Granger led the team in points today, picking up 13 as she stuffed the stat sheet with three aces, three digs, three total blocks, and eight kills. She spoke about how important being healthy for this season was and what the team can do to fix their errors in the second game.

“Last season was disappointing for me because I broke my ankle, that was not how I wanted the season to go, I’m thankful to have another opportunity to play for this program,” Granger said. “Coach Starr told us in the locker room that we can’t change what happened in this game and that we need to move on to the next one and that helped.”

FINAL STAT LEADERS:

Kills: Rajini Fitzmaurice, LU, 18 / Alyson Londot, RMU, 10

Assists: Amaya Williams, LU, 37 / Megan Cannon, RMU 19

Digs: Lindsey Hardesty, LU, 20 / Nikolette Zanolli, RMU, 11

Points: Fitzmaurice, LU, 19.5 / Emma Granger, RMU, 13

The Colonials will play again later tonight when they take on Idaho at 7 p.m. Idaho and Duquesne is the next matchup in the tournament, taking place just a few minutes after this game ended.