The Ashland University volleyball team will hit the road on Wednesday (Nov. 15) to play in the GLIAC Tournament quarterfinal at top-seeded and 20th-ranked Ferris State in Big Rapids, Mich.
The Eagles (14-14) and Bulldogs (20-7) have locked up once previously this season with Ashland taking a thrilling five-set decision over the visiting 'Dogs, 25-21, 18-25, 22-25, 25-21, 15-10, on Oct. 20 at Kates Gymnasium. That win ran AU's home winning streak to 22 wins at the time.
"We did a really good job of controlling our first contact whether that was out of our serve or out of serve receive and defense," said seventh-year head coach Cass Dixon. "That allowed us to get them out of system and let us get all our attackers involved and not solely rely on our on our outsides."
Ferris State actually out-hit Ashland in the match, .233 to .196, but the Eagles served aggressively and accurately all night, racking up six aces against just six service errors.
AU also hit .289 and .286, respectively in the final two sets while holding FSU to .220 and .074 marks. The Eagles had five players with at least 10 digs in the match and junior Reanne Neal had 10 kills, seven blocks, four aces and eight digs. Freshman Kali Apelt had 44 assists.
The Eagles will have a similar approach on Wednesday, focusing on making quality first contact and trying to get the GLIAC regular season champs out of system.
"We need to get our middles involved and our right side," said Dixon. "If we can do that, we'll have a balanced attack and it makes us that much harder to stop."
Neal and redshirt-sophomore Michaela Ping have been two of the most consistent performers for the Eagles this season. They are the top two players at the net for the Eagles with 115 and 82 blocks, respectively. Neal rates third in the GLIAC with 1.15 blocks per set.
"With them being as consistent as they've been, it gives our team that spark of energy when they get a block," said Dixon. "They rely on them and they don't have worry about that and they can focus on their own jobs on the floor."
The first serve in Big Rapids goes up at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. The winner will play the winner of Grand Valley State and Wayne State at the site of the highest remaining seed.