GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - Finishing with a hard-fought battle against tournament champion Auburn, the Green Bay volleyball squad wrapped up its participation in the season-opening Green Bay/Country Inn & Suites Tournament on Saturday with a pair of tough losses at the Kress Center. The Phoenix was swept by Central Michigan (25-20, 27-25, 25-14) in its afternoon match before falling 3-0 to the Tigers (32-30, 28-26, 25-21) in the entertaining tournament finale.
Green Bay finished 1-2 on the weekend, defeating Drake 3-0 in the opener on Friday. Auburn, paced by tournament MVP Camila Jersonsky, took all three matches to earn the title. Joining Jersonsky on the all-tournament team were Auburn's Sarah Wroblicky and Sarah Bullock, Central Michigan's Lindsey Dulude and Jenna Coates, Green Bay's Carmen Leitermann and Drake's Cassie Effken.
Leitermann finished the tournament with 31 kills in nine sets to lead the Phoenix, hitting .475 from the middle. Brittany Groth (Oak Creek, Wis.) also turned in an impressive tournament performance, registering 72 digs, including a school-record 29 Saturday night against Auburn.
Auburn 3, Green Bay 0
Although the scoreboard read 3-0 in favor of the Tigers, the final match of the Green Bay/Country Inn & Suites Tournament certainly felt like it could have gone either way. The Phoenix held sizable leads in each of the first two sets, both of which needed extra points to be decided.
"It's not often that you go in the locker room following a 3-0 loss and say 'that was a great volleyball match,'" Phoenix head coach Debbie Kirch said. "It was frustrating because I thought we had good leads in both sets one and two and we couldn't hold on to them. Overall we fought for every last point and played incredible defense and just did whatever we could do to bring the ball back."
Leading the Phoenix defense was Groth, whose 29 digs broke the team record for a three-set match. Groth tied the previous record of 26 in 2010, which she held with former Phoenix standout and current assistant coach Sarah Rauen (2005).
Green Bay jumped out to a 12-5 lead in set one, but Auburn fought back to even the score at 21-21. Consecutive kills gave the Tigers a 23-21 advantage, but the Phoenix responded with a kill from Katie Mroczenski (New Berlin, Wis.) followed by a block to knot things back up at 23-23.
The Tigers had their first set point opportunity leading 24-23 when Lyndsay Zabkowicz (Oak Creek, Wis.) drove home a kill to once again even the score. Green Bay pulled ahead on three different occasions over the next five points, but Auburn answered each time. All square at 27-27, the two teams traded points until it was 30-30. A kill by Auburn's Courtney McDonald put the Tigers back in front, and a block ended the thrilling first set 32-30.
The Phoenix started fast again in set two as a Leitermann kill gave the home team a 12-7 advantage. Leading 21-15, Green Bay looked to be on its way to tying the match, but Auburn took six of the next seven points to get it to within one (22-21).
Back-to-back kills gave the Tigers their first set point chance at 24-23, but Mroczenski came through with a big kill to keep the set alive. Mroczenski and Leitermann added clutch kills moments later to deny Auburn two more set point opportunities, but the Tigers eventually used consecutive kills from Sarah Bullock and Jersonsky to finish it off 28-26.
The relentless Phoenix battled hard once again in set three, leading 15-14 after a kill by Leah Poel (Jenison, Mich.). Auburn responded with a 6-0 run to take a 20-15 lead and eventually pulled away for the 25-21 win to earn the sweep.
Leitermann had a team-high 13 kills in the contest, while Leah Van Zeeland (Kaukauna, Wis.) posted a double-double with 10 kills and 12 digs. Poel also garnered a double-double, registering 31 assists and 11 digs.
Central Michigan 3, Green Bay 0
After dropping the opening set the Phoenix was on the verge of tying the contest at one apiece after taking a 25-24 lead in set two, but the Chippewas registered the final three points to steal the set and change the complexion of the match.
Green Bay trailed 16-11 midway through the second set when a Leitermann kill sparked a 6-0 run by the Phoenix, giving the hosts a 17-16 advantage. The Chippewas responded to get it to set point (24-22), but another Leitermann kill, an attack error by CMU and a Leah Van Zeeland service ace made it 25-24 Phoenix.
The Chippewas called timeout and came out of the break swinging, as Val DeWeerd picked up a kill to knot the set at 25-25. CMU's Lindsey Dulude finished things off, getting back-to-back kills off of assists from Kelly Maxwell.
"I think that loss in the second set really took the wind out of our sails and it carried over into set three," Kirch said. "That didn't happen in the Auburn match. We kept our heads up and kept fighting and that made a big difference."
The Phoenix got out to an early 6-4 lead in the opening set and was tied 16-16 later on, but a pair of errors gave the visitors the lead for good as the Chippewas pulled away for the 25-20 win.
A Mroczenski kill cut it to 9-8 in favor of CMU to start the third set, but that's when the Chippewas rattled off seven of the next eight points to go up 16-9. CMU pushed the lead to double digits (21-11) and ultimately finished with a 25-14 win.
Zabkowicz led the Phoenix in kills for the second straight match with seven, while Leitermann had another solid performance, finishing with six kills and a .400 hitting percentage in addition to five total blocks.
CMU was paced by Dulude, who had a match-high 12 kills while hitting .429. Jenna Coates registered 26 digs to lead all players, while Maxwell had 35 assists.
After opening with three at home, the Phoenix will play its next nine matches on the road, starting with a trip to DeKalb, Ill., to face Northern Illinois next Tuesday. Green Bay then returns to tournament action with trips to the North Dakota Classic (Aug. 31-Sept. 1), the South Dakota State Jackrabbit Invite (Sept. 7-8) and the Davidson Wildcat Classic (Sept. 14-15). Green Bay's next home match is slated for Sept. 21 when it opens Horizon League play against Cleveland State.
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