GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - The Green Bay volleyball team (14-11, 5-6 HL) opened up its final homestand of the regular season Friday night in grand fashion, crushing visiting Loyola (15-10, 7-5 HL) 3-0 at the Kress Center. The Phoenix has now won four of its last five matches, including the last three on its home court.
Green Bay was dominant on the defensive end in the 25-22, 25-22, 25-15 win, holding the Ramblers to a .071 hitting percentage. The Phoenix finished with a 13-4 advantage in total team blocks, led by Carmen Leitermann (Schofield, Wis.) and Leah Poel (Jenison, Mich.), who had six apiece.
"I was really happy with how well we played defensively last Friday night against Milwaukee, and we knew that if we played that way again tonight that we could beat Loyola," Phoenix head coach Debbie Kirch said. "We were really disciplined against their outside hitters, we served the ball well and our block was outstanding. Overall we had a great defensive match."
On the offensive end, junior Lyndsay Zabkowicz (Oak Creek, Wis.) led the Phoenix with 13 kills, hitting an impressive .355. Poel finished with a match-high 31 assists to go along with 10 digs, giving the junior her team-high 13th double-double of the year.
The Phoenix also celebrated five seasons of playing its home games at the Kress Events Center on Friday, as the Green Bay volleyball program held the building's first event on Nov. 2, 2007.
After a back-and-forth start in the opening set, a Katie Mroczenski (New Berlin, Wis.) block capped off an 8-2 run that gave the Phoenix an 18-12 lead. The Ramblers battled back and cut it to two at 21-19 after a kill by Laura Purcell, but that would be as close as the visitors would get. Green Bay pushed its lead to 24-20 and a Leitermann kill closed it out at 25-22.
Set two saw another competitive start, as the two teams were tied at 12-12 at the midway point. Back-to-back kills by Zabkowicz broke a 17-17 tie to give the Phoenix a two-point advantage, but the Ramblers responded to knot things back up at 20-20. Another Zabkowicz kill followed by a Loyola error moved the Phoenix back in front by a pair, but a double-block followed by an Anna Eytchison kill made it 22-22, forcing Kirch to call her final timeout.
Zabkowicz hammered home her seventh kill of the set out of the timeout to give the Phoenix a 23-22 lead, and Leitermann closed out the 25-22 win with a kill of her own, giving her team the 2-0 lead.
Brittany Groth (Oak Creek, Wis.) had 14 of her match-high 20 digs in the second set. The senior is now just 30 digs away from tying Megan Elfering (1,789 from 2005-08) atop Green Bay's all-time digs list.
Green Bay also held a 2-0 lead in the first meeting between the two teams this season on Oct. 6 in Chicago, but the Ramblers stormed back to earn a 3-2 victory. The Phoenix made sure history didn't repeat itself on Friday night, as the hosts pummeled Loyola 25-15 in set three to secure the 3-0 sweep.
The Phoenix forced the Ramblers to burn two quick timeouts after two straight blocks gave Green Bay an 11-5 lead. The breaks only delayed the inevitable, however, as a 4-0 run extended Green Bay's advantage to 18-11, and a block by freshman Taylor Kasal (Westmont, Ill.) gave the Phoenix its largest lead at 24-14. Monica Anderson (Cottage Grove, Wis.) secured the set and the match moments later with her ninth kill.
Green Bay held the Ramblers to a -.075 hitting percentage in the third, forcing 14 errors. The Phoenix ended the match with a .217 to .071 advantage in hitting percentage and a 40-36 edge in kills. Eytchison led all players with 15 kills for the Ramblers.
With just three matches remaining on the regular season schedule, the Phoenix - currently fifth in the league standings - hopes Friday's win will help build momentum heading into the final stretch.
"We talked a lot this week about building the momentum and beating teams that we didn't beat in the first round of league play," Kirch said. "It's all about getting better and I feel like we're doing that, but at the same time we know that tomorrow is another match and we have to move on."
Green Bay wraps up the home portion of its 2012 season on Saturday afternoon, welcoming UIC to the Kress Center for a 2 p.m. meeting. Saturday is also Senior Day for the Phoenix, as Groth, Leitermann and Haley Oelke (Mosinee, Wis.) will each be recognized following the match.
Prior to the start of Friday's match, Carmen Leitermann was presented with an honorary, record-setting game ball by former Phoenix standout Marie Nicol (Kaland). Leitermann recently broke Nicol's career solo blocks record of 97 (1992-95), and her total is now at 100. It was the longest-standing career mark in the Phoenix record books.
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