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Middle Tennessee Edges Volleyball in Five Sets

Bruce Butler

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – After dropping the first two sets and falling behind, 2-0, to Middle Tennessee, the Old Dominion (3-3, 1-2 C-USA) women's volleyball team came back to claim the third and fourth sets and even up the game, 2-2, forcing a fifth set. The Blue Raiders surged to a 6-1 advantage in the fifth set, not surrendering a lead the rest of the way, handing ODU a 3-2 (18-25, 19-25, 25-23, 25-21, 5-15) loss on Sunday afternoon.
"From an outcome standpoint, we're disappointed in the loss. But from a development standpoint I'm very pleased," explained head coach Fred Chao. "Middle Tennessee has a competitive spirit that is part of their culture and serves them well. We paid the price early on, but we stepped up to the mark in sets three and four. Moving forward we need to use this experience to sharpen our focus and conviction while under pressure."
Starting the first set of the match even, the Blue Raiders (1-3, 1-0 C-USA) began to open an offensive charge, mounting a 9-1 run to take a 19-12 advantage. The Monarchs worked to come back via a pair of Alessia Sgherza and Teresa Atilano kills, a Jordan Daniel service ace and four Blue Raider errors but Middle Tennessee kept its foot on the gas the remainder of the first set, 25-18.
After remaining knotted, 7-7 to open the second set, the Blue Raiders once again took advantage of a late scoring run to take down ODU, 25-19, in the second set.
Coming out of the break, ODU turned things around, leading the set, 8-7 until an ODU attack error knotted the game up for the first time, 8-8. The C-USA teams traded points for the next few possessions; however, Hailey Duncan hammered a kill, which mounted a 6-3 ODU run, giving the Monarchs a 18-15 lead in the third set, forcing a Middle Tennessee timeout. Despite 11 tie scores and six lead changes in a back-and-forth set, the Monarchs closed out the frame by tallying the last two points in their favor, winning their first set of the afternoon, 25-23.
Carrying momentum from the third set, ODU jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the fourth set. The Blue Raiders responded once again and tied up the game with back-to-back points off an ODU error and a kill of its own. The two teams remained tied 9-9, but an Ashley Peroe kill and a Valentina Culaciati, Sgherza block forced Middle Tennessee to take a timeout midway through the fourth set. The Monarchs held onto its advantage to open a three-point cushion as Middle Tennessee took another timeout. Out of the break, Middle Tennessee knocked down a kill, but ODU quickly responded on back-to-back kills. ODU finished on top, 25-21, forcing a fifth set in Murfreesboro.
In the decisive fifth set, Middle Tennessee secured a 7-1 lead and ODU could not regain its rhythm from the third and fourth sets. The Blue Raiders rode out the final set on an 8-4 run to win 15-5.
Overall, Sgherza led ODU in kills for the sixth-straight match, downing 19, a season-high. Putting together a standout performance, Culaciati added a season-high 11 kills on Sunday afternoon. In addition, Jordan Daniel added 13 digs for the Monarchs.
Up Next
ODU and Middle Tennessee will clash once more tomorrow, Feb. 22 at 2 p.m. in the Alumni Memorial Gymnasium.