Eagles Win Home, Conference Opener Over Wayne State

ASHLAND, Ohio – The AU volleyball team used its most efficient offensive attack of the season to win its home opener against Wayne State on Friday (Sept. 9) night, 3-1 (25-21, 25-19, 25-27, 25-23), at Kates Gymnasium.

Freshman Kathy Fletcher (West Chicago, Ill./Community) and junior Brittany Snider (Olmsted Falls, Ohio) combined on a strong effort to win the home debut for first-year head coach Cass Dixon.

Fletcher and Snider combined for 13 kills in 26 attacks with no errors in the first set alone leading the team to a .359 hitting percentage. Neither team led the set by more than two points until the Eagles went on a roll late. Fletcher delivered a pair of kills to give AU a 20-18 lead.

After a service error, Fletcher added another kill and an ace to make it 22-19. The Eagles won the set on an ace by junior Crystal Elliott (Canal Winchester, Ohio).

With Kate Eckels (Loveland, Ohio/Mount Notre Dame) serving to start the second set, the Eagles reeled off the first five points, including two aces by Eckels. The Warriors (1-4, 0-1 GLIAC) were able to tie the set a couple of times, but the Eagles pulled away by scoring six of the last eight points in the set.

The Eagles fell behind early in the third set, 6-1, but were able to rally to eventually take an 18-15 lead after winning 11 of 12 points in the middle of the set with sophomore Baley Bernthisel (Grand Rapids, Mich./Otsego) and Eckels serving.

The Eagles led 22-19, but the Warriors battled to take a 24-23 lead. Fletcher's kill tied the set and a bad set by Cydney Biessel gave AU the one-point advantage with a chance to end the match. Nicole Arends recorded a kill that tied the set 25-25 before an attack error and ace sent the Warriors to the 27-25 win.

For much of the fourth set, it appeared the match may have been headed for a decisive fifth set with the Eagles trailing by as many as three at 15-12. Again with Eckels serving, the Eagles made a run to take an 18-16 lead. Snider and sophomore Susie Jonas (Harrison, Ohio) notched a pair of kills to make it 20-16.

Later in the set, the Warriors got to within one point at 24-23, but Fletcher ended the match with her 19th kill of the match. She finished with just four errors and hit .405 for the match. She also added two blocks.

Snider had 18 kills on 48 attacks with just four errors. She also added 12 digs. Eckels had five service aces and 12 digs and Bernthisel finished with 10 digs.

Elliott was the lead distributor for Ashland, finishing with 48 assists and nine digs to go along with four kills on eight attacks with no errors.

Senior libero Arian Martin (Independence, Ohio) had a team-high 15 digs and now has 1,421 in her career. Senior Anesia Benton (Lima, Ohio/Senior) finished with 10 kills for AU while freshman Alyx Crislip (Louisville, Ohio) added eight kills.

The Eagles hit .253 as a team and held the Warriors to a .238 hitting percentage. 

As a team, Wayne State registered nine total blocks, led by Paige Stevenson, who had seven block assists.

Kristen Bulkiewicz led the Warriors with 17 kills and Biessel had 44 assists. Lindsey Graciak had a match-high 18 digs.

The Eagles return to the floor on Saturday (Sept. 10) at 2 p.m. to face Findlay at Kates Gymnasium. AU closes the weekend with a 2 p.m. start against No. 11 Hillsdale on Sunday (Sept. 11).