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Volleyball Sweeps Liberty, Loses to Loyola Marymount

Keith Lucas

LYNCHBURG, Va. – The Old Dominion volleyball team went 1-1 on the first day of the Liberty Invitational. The Monarchs (3-5) ended Liberty's undefeated start to the season with a convincing three-set victory in the morning before losing 3-0 to Loyola Marymount later in the day.
ODU 3, Liberty 0
The Monarchs won despite allowing the highest attacking percentage by an opponent this season. The Flames (3-1) tallied 43 kills with 10 errors on 102 attempts (.324). ODU hit .250 as a team (39 kills, 14 errors, 100 swings).
"We responded well to a good Liberty team," head coach Fred Chao said. "Everyone played their part to make the system work, and that won us the points we needed. We served and passed well, and our pin attackers played smart. Our ball control gave us access to our middles on a regular basis. This was a good result for us."
Old Dominion made up for this deficit at the service line. The Monarchs racked up 10 aces and only three service errors. LU committed 13 service errors to just four aces. Teresa Atilano and Olivia De Jesus had four aces apiece to tie the program single-match record.
Alessia Sgherza notched her sixth-career double-double and her first of the season with 10 kills and 11 digs while attacking at a .333 clip. The graduate student from Massa, Italy led the Monarchs in kills and attacks and set the game high in digs.
ODU edged the home team 25-23 in an entertaining first set that featured 14 ties and seven changes of the lead. The Monarchs led by as many as three points early on but faced a 21-20 deficit. A kill followed by an ace from De Jesus put ODU back ahead, but Liberty (3-1) responded with two unanswered to go ahead 23-22. From there, the Monarchs buckled down and scored the last three points of the set with a service ace from Anna Burkhardt providing the winning point.
The second set went to Old Dominion, 25-21. Liberty took the first two points of the set and was still up two at 5-3 before the Monarchs rattled off five unanswered, including two kills and another ace from De Jesus. While the set would remain close until the end, ODU never relinquished the lead. Up 23-18, Old Dominion appeared poised to put the Flames away, but LU prolonged the set with a 3-0 run. An attack error stopped Liberty's run, and a combined block from De Jesus and Myah Conway won the set.
ODU finished out the match with a wire-to-wire 25-21 win in the third set. The Monarchs had their best attacking showing in the third set, hitting .333 as a team. Atilano gave Old Dominion a 4-0 lead to start the set with a trio of service aces, and the Monarchs soon broke open a 9-2 advantage. Liberty battled back to tie the match at 13-13 on the strength of a 6-1 run, but an Atilano kill stopped the host's momentum. The Monarchs rebuilt a three-point cushion and kept LU at arms' length to close out the set and the match.
Hailey Duncan came on strong late for ODU and finished the match with seven kills and no errors on just 13 swings (.538). All seven of her kills came in the final two sets. De Jesus and Conway both added six kills and two blocks.
Atilano filled the box score with four kills, 32 assists, five digs and a block. Lilly Kruse paced the Flames with 14 kills and six digs.
LMU 3, ODU 0
The Monarchs hit .151 as a team in the afternoon match, a 3-0 loss to Loyola Marymount (5-1).
"We were outmatched by LMU but fought hard where we could, particularly in the serve and pass," Chao said. "We had leads and played well in stretches. We ended up breaking down in our passing and lost leads on the back of tough passes and attack errors, but the experience was a good one for us."
The Lions won the opening set 25-18 behind six kills from Kari Geissberger. Old Dominion scored the first point of the set, but LMU quickly took the lead and held it for good. Back-to-back kills from Duncan and Sgherza drew the Monarchs to within five at 17-12, but that was as close as ODU could get.
ODU led by as many as six points in the second set, but the Lions scored seven of the final eight points of the set to win it 25-21. Duncan, Sgherza and Conway each had two kills in the set. Trailing 5-4, the Monarchs went on an extended 12-5 surge to stake claim to a 16-10 advantage. Following a timeout, Loyola Marymount immediately started chipping away at the deficit, scoring eight of the next 11 points to make it 19-18. An errant serve from the Lions put ODU on top 20-18, but the next six points went to LMU. Another service error briefly kept the Monarchs alive before Geissberger's kill finished off the set.
The third set saw 14 ties and seven lead changes with LMU pulling away late. The Lions led 8-4 before ODU ripped off five straight to go ahead 9-8. The two sides stayed neck-and-neck late into the set until a 6-0 LMU run transformed a 17-16 deficit into a 22-17 advantage. Three of the next four points went to the Monarchs, including a pair of kills from Madeline Rudd, but the Lions scored the final two points of the set to seal the match.
Sgherza had nine kills to pace Old Dominion. Duncan added seven while attacking .467. A middle blocker from Chesapeake, Virginia, Duncan tallied 14 kills across two games on Friday and did not commit an error.
As a team, the Monarchs notched nine blocks against LMU. De Jesus had six block assists. Duncan added two solo blocks and one block assist.
Geissberger set the match high with 18 kills for the Lions.
Old Dominion wraps up the Liberty Invitational tomorrow at 1 p.m. against Purdue Fort Wayne.