Volleyball pushes Penguins to the limit, wins Homecoming game

RMU+celebrates+a+point+against+YSU.

Photo by Tyler Gallo

RMU celebrates a point against YSU.

By Michael Deemer, Contributor

MOON TOWNSHIP– RMU volleyball (9-9, 2-4 Horizon) was back at home against Youngstown State (4-13, 1-5) Friday night after dropping their match on the road against Northern Kentucky last week.

The Colonials started strong. They took the first point and never gave the Penguins the lead in the first set. Their biggest spread was five in the period. Not too long after, Youngstown State freshman Paula Gursching had three consecutive aces to tie it at 11. Head coach Dale Starr shared his frustration after the match.

“I think we need to learn some things about ourselves and how hard we need to play,” Starr said. “I think it’s due to a lack of focus, at times. Lack of being locked in. I’m hoping we can continue to learn lessons about how much we have to be mentally locked into games. So, I was pleased with the win, but not necessarily the execution all the way through.”

The second period was a battle of runs. Youngstown State started on a 5-1 run, but a 4-0 run immediately after for the Colonials took the 6-5 lead on their own. The Penguins took “anything you can do I can do better” to heart with another 5-1 stretch to take a 10-7 lead. While RMU answered with the same run of their own, the back-and-forth affair would continue throughout. The Colonials came out on top of this marathon of a set, 25-23.

The start of the third set looked flat-out ugly for the Colonials. The Penguins came out of the break on fire, starting the set on an 8-0 lead, later extending it to 12-1. The Colonials were not out of it without a fight. An 18-6 YSU lead was cut to just 22-18. A buzzing UPMC Events Center was anticipating an unbelievable comeback, but it was just too little, too late. The Penguins prevailed, surviving the set 25-19.

In the fourth set, it was a set of runs once again. Five 3-0 series were sparked for the Penguins, and the Colonials had nothing to show for it. They knotted things at two sets apiece with a 25-18 set win. Coach Starr pointed to the fizzling out of the offense in these two sets.

“I think we played pretty well the first two sets and then let off the gas, took a little breath in the third and fourth.”

Nevertheless, the electricity in the building was at an all-time high. All of those in attendance were on the edge of their seats as the fifth set began. A 4-1 run early for the Penguins had them up 6-4. This was before a 6-1 explosion by the Colonials gave them a 10-7 advantage. A 4-1 run by YSU tied things at 11, but a 3-1 run late sealed it for Robert Morris, winning 15-13.

We saw some fresh faces in the fifth set, as Ally Christman and Abby Powers took control. Coach Starr shared some praise to the freshman coming off the bench in the latter stages.

“We had some really clutch performances from some freshmen. Ally Christman came in and did a good job when we needed her to make plays. Abby Powers came in and did a good job, coming off the bench after sitting for two hours, it’s not easy to do. I was pleased with the win, but not necessarily the execution all the way through.”

The 6’4 graduate senior Emma Granger led the Colonials with 6 blocks, along with Alyson Londot and Emma Brown each recording 4 and Alyssa Hudak having 3.

Ashleigh Wallin notched a career-high 39 assists, Alyson Londot contributed a season-high 16 kills and RMU as a whole had 11 service aces.

“Blocking picked up,” Starr said. The Colonials trailed in team blocks 8-2 after 2 sets. “We started doing simpler things and try not to do too much in the blocking scheme, but individually those are great numbers and it always helps our team when we are blocking well.”

Coach Starr and company head to the buses after this game. He spoke on the upcoming challenges for the team on the road.

“We have a tough road trip coming up.” Coach Starr said. “It’s hard to win on the road in this conference. We have to bring our energy. You’re going to be in a hostile environment. You have to be able to lock in on your side. That’s something last year…we didn’t have to do that. That’s an adjustment we have to make, we only had one taste of it in Northern Kentucky, and didn’t necessarily handle it very well so I’m hoping we handle it better in these upcoming three [games] because we don’t have a choice.”

RMU improved to 4-1 when heading to a fifth set.

The Colonials have three games in four days starting on Thursday in Milwaukee at 7:00 pm.