Comeback Attempt Falls Just Short in Season Opener

Courtesy: Green Bay Athletics
         
Release: August 30, 2013
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Senior Leah Van Zeeland had 12 kills and three blocks on Friday at NIU.

By: Ryan Hartwig (@RyanHartwig)
GreenBayPhoenix.com

DEKALB, Ill. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) – Green Bay (0-1) was able to force a deciding fifth set on Friday night after falling behind 2-0 to Northern Illinois (1-0) in its season opener, but the valiant comeback attempt fell just short as the Phoenix ultimately dropped a 3-2 (25-18, 25-13, 22-25, 26-28, 15-11) decision to the host Huskies at the NIU Invitational at Victor E. Court. Friday night also marked the start of Michaela Franklin’s head-coaching career at Green Bay.

“I think tonight was a great beginning to our season,” said Franklin, who was an assistant at NIU from 2006-08. “I was really proud of the way we fought back after going down 0-2. We got the first-match jitters out, and we showed that we were able to focus in and fight in those situations and push it to a fifth set. It was good for our team to be in that situation, and I told our players that it’s only a matter of time before those types of matches will go our way.”

After NIU took sets one and two in convincing fashion (25-18, 25-13), the Phoenix rallied with a 25-22 win in the third to cut the Huskies’ lead to 2-1. The Phoenix never trailed in the set, opening up an 8-4 lead early and extending its advantage to five (23-18) late. NIU cut it to 24-22 after a kill by Sarah Angelos, but Green Bay was able to force an attack error to close out the win.

The Phoenix evened the match at 2-2 by winning the thrilling fourth set 28-26 – one that saw freshman Shannon Hurley (Connellsville, Penn.) record eight of her team-high 19 kills in her collegiate debut. Five Hurley kills in the early going helped Green Bay to an 8-2 advantage, but NIU was able to rebound and tie the score at 15-15. The two teams went back and forth down the stretch, knotting the score eight more times, including at 26-26, before an NIU service error and a double-block by Leah Van Zeeland (Kaukauna, Wis.) and Taylor Kasal (Westmont, Ill.) finally ended it.

The Phoenix got off to a strong start in the first-to-15 fifth set, jumping out to a 4-0 lead on Mikaela Gunderson’s (Casco, Wis.) serve. Green Bay was up 8-7 when the two teams switched sides, but the Huskies scored five of the next six points to go up 12-9. Back-to-back points by the Phoenix cut it to a one-point deficit, but NIU rattled off the final three to win 15-11 and improve to 1-0 on the year.

Van Zeeland joined Hurley in double-figures with 12 kills to go along with her three blocks. Sophomore transfers Jillian Bauer (Verona, Wis.) and Emily Riese (Fond du Lac, Wis.) also had solid Phoenix debuts, as Bauer totaled 22 digs and Riese led all players with 42 assists.

Green Bay returns to action at the NIU Invitational on Saturday with a pair of tough matches against 2012 NCAA Tournament teams. The Phoenix first plays No. 23 Ohio State at noon, and then takes on Liberty at 5 p.m.

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