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By: Ryan Hartwig (@RyanHartwig)
GreenBayPhoenix.com

GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - Green Bay (14-12, 5-7 HL) started fast with a lopsided victory in the opening set, but visiting UIC (17-12, 9-4 HL) bounced back to take sets two through four, handing the Phoenix a 3-1 (12-25, 25-21, 25-23, 25-21) loss on Saturday afternoon at the Kress Center. Saturday also marked Senior Day, as the Phoenix honored its senior class of 2012 consisting of Brittany Groth (Oak Creek, Wis.), Carmen Leitermann (Schofield, Wis.) and Haley Oelke (Mosinee, Wis.).

Green Bay's Lyndsay Zabkowicz (Oak Creek, Wis.) led all players with 22 kills on Saturday, tying her career high. The junior hit .353 for the match, committing only four errors on 51 attempts. UIC had three players reach double-digit kill totals, as Aubrey Sniegowski (14), Kelsey Safranek (12) and Sara Sternard (11) each had 11 or more.

The Phoenix finished the match with a .194 to .120 advantage in hitting percentage and a 55 to 52 edge in kills. Both teams finished with 10 blocks apiece, while the Flames ended with a slight advantage in digs (84-81).

Groth finished with a match-high 28 digs in her final contest at the Kress Center. She now needs just three more to pass former Phoenix standout Megan Elfering (1,789 from 2005-08) as Green Bay's all-time digs leader.

Green Bay picked up right where it left off on Friday night against Loyola, rolling 25-12 in the opening set. Zabkowicz led the way with eight kills as the Phoenix out-hit the Flames .324 to -.081. A kill by Monica Anderson (Cottage Grove, Wis.) forced a UIC timeout at 12-7, and back-to-back kills by Zabkowicz and Taylor Kasal (Westmont, Ill.) extended the Phoenix advantage to 19-10. Green Bay pushed the lead to 10 (21-11) with a UIC error, and a 4-0 run capped off by Zabkowicz's eighth kill gave the Phoenix the 1-0 lead.

"We obviously came out ready to play," Phoenix head coach Debbie Kirch said. "We really carried the momentum over from last night. Defensively we played another great match. I couldn't have asked for much more. Offensively, we knew UIC was a good team and we would have to work hard for our kills. We just lost patience at times and unfortunately that proved to be the difference in each of the last three sets. I think we were expecting the rest of the match to be like the first set, but UIC is just too good of a team."

The Flames bounced back with a 25-21 win in set number two, evening the contest at 1-1. UIC opened up a sizable lead in the third (17-11), but the Phoenix rallied back to tie the score at 19-19. Green Bay battled down the stretch, as a Zabkowicz kill got it to one at 24-23, but Sniegowski ended it with a kill at 25-23, giving the visitors the 2-1 lead.

Set four was similar, as the Flames led big (20-13) only to see the Phoenix mount a comeback. Green Bay cut it to two at 21-19, forcing a timeout, but UIC held off the Phoenix for the 25-21 win and the 3-1 victory.

Kirch and the three seniors addressed the fans in a post-match ceremony, reliving moments from the last four years and thanking those who helped them along the way.

"Senior Day is always bittersweet," Kirch said. "It's a celebration of their careers, but at the same time it's always hard being that it's the last home match for them. I'm proud of all three seniors and the growth that they've made, not just on the court, but in the classroom and as people. They've developed into wonderful young ladies and I'm excited to see what their next step is in life."

Green Bay is back in action next weekend for the final two matches of the regular season. The Phoenix first heads to Wright State on Friday (6 p.m. CT) and then travels to Valparaiso on Saturday (6 p.m. CT).

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