Phoenix Rolls Past Liberty 3-0 for First Win of 2013
DEKALB, Ill. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) – After a pair of heartbreaking five-set losses to start the season, the Green Bay volleyball team (1-2) wrapped up the NIU Invitational on Saturday with a convincing 3-0 sweep (25-23, 25-21, 25-20) of Liberty (0-3) at Victor E. Court. The win marked the first in the career of new Phoenix head coach Michaela Franklin.
“We obviously were hungry to get our first win of the year after being so close in our first two matches,” Franklin said. “We knew Liberty was a good team coming in, a team that played in the NCAA Tournament last year, so we were pumped up to play them and we played well.
“Overall I was really impressed with the progression we made this weekend. I know we’re going in the right direction, and it was a great weekend for the future of Green Bay Volleyball.”
Senior Leah Van Zeeland (Kaukauna, Wis.) got Green Bay off to a strong start in its second match of the afternoon, recording an impressive 10 kills on 19 attempts (.421) in the opening set. The Phoenix led 7-3 early behind a trio of Van Zeeland kills, and pushed its lead to as many as six (18-12) late. The Flames were able to get within one at 24-23, forcing a Green Bay timeout, but an attack error ended it and gave the Phoenix the 1-0 advantage.
Green Bay was fast out of the gate again in the second set, building an 11-2 lead that it would never relinquish. Sophomore Mikaela Gunderson (Casco, Wis.) carried the offensive load for the Phoenix in set two, tallying five of her career-high nine kills. Liberty chipped away at the large Phoenix lead and cut it to two twice (16-14 and 18-16), but Green Bay pulled away down the stretch for the 25-21 win.
The Phoenix led 6-2 in the third set following back-to-back kills by Gunderson and sophomore Emily Riese (Fond du Lac, Wis.), but the Flames rallied to tie things up at 15-15 with a Kendle Rollins service ace. Sophomore Shannon Hurley (Connellsville, Penn.) responded with a kill that gave Green Bay the lead for good at 16-15, and Van Zeeland capped off the runaway 25-20 victory with her match-high 17th kill. Van Zeeland finished the match with a double-double, also tallying 11 digs.
Sophomore libero Jillian Bauer (Verona, Wis.) was awarded with a spot on the NIU Invitational All-Tournament Team after a strong first weekend with the Phoenix. Bauer had 20 or more digs in all three matches this weekend, including 21 in the three-setter against Liberty, racking up 63 total.
“Jillian dug the ball really well this weekend,” Franklin said. “She passed well in serve receive and she’s starting to take control of the back row. She’s also beginning to evolve into the leadership role that we need her to take on. She showed a lot of confidence and definitely showed she’s a competitor.”
Green Bay returns to action next week (Sept. 5-6) at the Auburn Active Ankle Challenge in Auburn, Ala. The Phoenix will open the tournament on Thursday against Troy (12 p.m.) and Auburn (7 p.m.) before taking on Mercer on Friday at 5 p.m.
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