GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - The Green Bay volleyball team (8-6, 1-1) closed out its opening weekend of Horizon League play Saturday afternoon with a 3-2 victory over Youngstown State (10-6, 0-2) at the Kress Center. The Phoenix won every other set (25-22, 17-25, 25-22, 23-25, 15-12), picking up its fifth win in the last six matches.
Leah Van Zeeland (Kaukauna, Wis.) had a career day for Green Bay in the win, posting a near triple-double performance. The junior recorded a season-high 18 kills - including four in the deciding fifth set - and also notched new career highs with 21 digs and eight blocks.
"I don't know if everybody realizes just how much Leah means to this team," Green Bay head coach Debbie Kirch said. "She's a jack of all trades. She rarely leads us in anything, but she's usually number two in almost everything. There are just so many things she does for us and I'm really proud of the way she's playing right now."
The Phoenix found itself in an early 3-0 hole to start the fifth and final set, but a timeout sparked a 5-0 run capped off by Van Zeeland's first kill of the set, making it 5-3 Phoenix. Green Bay led 8-4 when the teams switches sides, and another Van Zeeland kill forced a YSU timeout at 9-4.
The Penguins kept it close and trailed just 11-10 after a kill by Alexis Egler, but the Phoenix scored three of the next four points to get a match point chance at 14-11. Jenna Cavanaugh's match-high 19th kill prolonged the contest for YSU at 14-12, but Van Zeeland capped off her exceptional day with the match-clinching kill.
"To gut out a five-set win in the Horizon League, which I think is a very competitive league right now, is always good," Kirch said. "I thought we did a good job keeping our composure throughout the match, and when we needed to win we played our way and finished well."
Green Bay out-hit the Penguins .346 to .176 in the fifth, recording 10 kills and committing just one error while forcing five Penguin miscues. The Phoenix finished the day with a .206 to .186 edge in hitting percentage and out-blocked the Penguins 15-6.
Van Zeeland, who hit an impressive .326 for the match, led four Phoenix players in double-figure kills, as Carmen Leitermann (Schofield, Wis.) had 13, and Monica Anderson (Cottage Grove, Wis.) and Lyndsay Zabkowicz (Oak Creek, Wis.) had 12 apiece.
Junior setter Leah Poel (Jenison, Mich.) had a match-high 48 assists to go along with 15 digs, and Brittany Groth (Oak Creek, Wis.), who entered the contest third in the NCAA in digs per set (5.94), tallied a match-high 31 digs. In addition, three Phoenix players had at least six blocks, as Van Zeeland (8), Leitermann (6) and Katie Mroczenski (New Berlin, Wis.) (6) all had strong days for the Green Bay defense. Mroczenski is now leading the Horizon League in blocks per set (1.15).
Green Bay trailed 15-11 in the opening set, but rallied to take a 20-18 lead following a kill by Anderson. The Phoenix extended its advantage to 22-19, but the Penguins fought back to make it 23-22, forcing Kirch to call a timeout. A Zabkowicz kill gave the Phoenix a set point chance at 24-22, and Zabkowicz finished off the 25-22 win with a big solo block.
It was all Penguins early in set two, as the visitors surged out to an 11-3 lead and held a 23-9 advantage late. The Phoenix mounted a comeback to get it to 24-17, but YSU finished off the 25-17 win to tie the match at 1-1.
The third set was tight throughout, as neither side led by more than four at any point. A kill by Anderson gave the Phoenix a set point opportunity and its largest lead at 24-20, and after two straight kills by YSU's Shannon Watson, Poel found the floor to deliver the 25-22 win.
The Penguins opened up a five-point lead (20-15) in set four after another kill by Watson, but Green Bay stormed back to tie it at 20-20 using strong play on the block. YSU moved back ahead with a 3-0 run of its own, however, and eventually closed out the 25-23 win to send the match to the deciding fifth set.
After playing its first two home matches in nearly a month, the Phoenix next heads back on the road for four straight. Green Bay first takes a break from league play next Wednesday at DePaul (7 p.m.), and then resumes its conference schedule at Milwaukee on Friday (7 p.m.).
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