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Volleyball Celebrates Senior Night with Four-Set Win over Middle Tennessee

Keith Lucas

NORFOLK, Va. – Playing in its final Friday night home match of the season, the Old Dominion volleyball team scored a 3-1 win over Middle Tennessee in front of 320 fans. Prior to the match, the Monarchs honored departing players Julia Dunning and Alessia Sgherza on senior night.
"For longer stretches there was more investment," head coach Fred Chao said. "The mental and emotional investment were there for longer periods of time. Their attitude about tonight was super positive. They were excited, and you could tell how jazzed up they were."
ODU (12-13, 4-7 C-USA) hit .160 as a team on Friday, tallying 47 total kills. Freshman Myah Conway set a personal best with 16 kills while posting a .414 hitting percentage. Sgherza added 14 kills, seven digs and six blocks.
"We were very aggressive," Sgherza said. "Coach said to us 'be very aggressive and smart,' and I think we did a good job with that."
The Monarchs closed the first set on a 11-3 run to erase a six-point deficit and take the opener 27-25. Middle Tennessee (8-9, 6-5) led 22-16 before a Sgherza kill kickstarted a stretch of five-unanswered points. The Blue Raiders scored a kill to make it a 23-21 score line, but ODU notched the next two points to tie it up at 23-all. An ensuing service error brought about set point for MTSU, but the Monarchs took the next two. Middle Tennessee knotted the score at 25-25, but a Conway kill put ODU ahead for good before a combined block from Teresa Atilano and Hailey Duncan won the set. The Monarchs recorded six blocks in the first set and 15 for the night.
Middle Tennessee led from start to finish in a 25-12 second-set victory. The road time hit .370 in the set while limiting ODU to a .037 attacking percentage.
Old Dominion took the first three points of the third set and never looked behind in a 25-22 bounce-back win. The Blue Raiders tied the set at 5-5, but ODU promptly ripped off 4-0 run to gain separation. MTSU pulled to within four at 17-13, but the Monarchs had an answer, scoring three straight and four of the next five. The Blue Raiders added late drama to the set with a 6-1 run to make the margin 24-22, but an attack error from MTSU gave the set to the Monarchs.
ODU needed another late rally to take the fourth set, closing out with four unanswered to win 26-24. MTSU held a 20-17 advantage, but three of the next four points went the Monarchs' way to make it a one-point set. After a Blue Raider kill, Old Dominion tied the match on a service error and a Duncan kill, but back-to-back blocks by Middle Tennessee gave them two chances at set point. A setting error kept the Monarchs alive before Atilano and Duncan tied the match at 24-24 with a block. With momentum now on their side, the Monarchs went ahead on a Sgherza kill before a Blue Raider attack error won the match for Old Dominion.
Duncan chipped in four kills and seven block assists on Friday and was one of four Monarchs with four-plus blocks, joining Sgherza (five), Olivia De Jesus (five) and Atilano (four).
Starting at libero for the second time this season, Anna Burkhardt led the team with 16 digs. Atilano had four kills, 39 assists and eight digs.
With Marshall's 3-1 win over FIU on Friday night, the Monarchs have been eliminated from Conference USA Tournament contention. ODU wraps up its season against Middle Tennessee on Saturday at 2 p.m.