By: Ryan Hartwig (@RyanHartwig)
DEKALB, Ill. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) – Despite a school-record 18 total blocks by senior Katie Mroczenski (New Berlin, Wis.), the Green Bay volleyball team (0-2) suffered its second straight five-set loss to start its 2013 season on Saturday, dropping a 3-2 heartbreaker to No. 23 Ohio State (2-0) at Victor E. Court in the NIU Invitational.
The Phoenix battled hard against the 2013 NCAA Tournament team, forcing an extended first set and winning sets two and four, but the nationally-ranked Buckeyes narrowly took the decisive fifth set in the 29-27, 22-25, 25-19, 23-25, 15-13 victory.
Mroczenski’s 18 total blocks shattered the Phoenix school record of 13 set by Marie Kaland Nicol in 1992, and her seven solo blocks also broke Kaland’s mark of six from the 1995 season. Green Bay’s 21 total blocks in the contest were also the most in school history since the 23 the Phoenix had on Nov. 5, 2004 against Wright State. Mroczenski was just one block shy of tying the Horizon League’s single-match record of 19, set by Milwaukee’s Maddie Sueppel in 2009.
Green Bay looked to be in trouble early in the fourth, trailing 2-1 in the match and 11-6 in the set, but a 5-0 run anchored by a Mroczenski block tied the score at 11-11. Green Bay was able to continue its run and build a three-point lead (16-13), but the Buckeyes fought back and regained a 19-18 edge.
Two straight kills by freshman Shannon Hurley (Connellsville, Penn.) followed by another Mroczenski block put the Phoenix back up 21-19, and sophomore Mikaela Gunderson (Casco, Wis.) ended it at 25-23 with one of her three kills in the set, sending the match the distance.
Green Bay got down 0-2 to start the fifth, but a pair of double-blocks by Mroczenski and classmate Leah Van Zeeland (Kaukauna, Wis.) quickly tied it back up. OSU built a three-point lead on three separate occasions during the set, including at 12-9, but the Phoenix wouldn’t go down easy, cutting it to 12-11 and forcing a timeout. Green Bay was able to pull even at 13-13 after a Buckeye error, but OSU’s Kaitlyn Leary drilled home her 21st and 22nd kills to win the set 15-13 and the match 3-2.
Hurley led three Phoenix players with double-figure kill totals with 14. Van Zeeland added 12 kills and six total blocks, while sophomore Taylor Kasal (Westmont, Ill.) chipped in 11 kills. Sophomore Emily Riese (Fond du Lac, Wis.) led the Phoenix with 41 assists, while fellow sophomore Jillian Bauer (Verona, Wis.) – who played for OSU in 2012 – had a team-high 20 digs.
The Phoenix started fast following Friday night’s five-set loss to Northern Illinois, opening up a 4-1 lead early in the exciting first set. OSU slowly regained control, using a 4-0 run to build a 12-10 advantage, but the Buckeyes would never lead by more than two the rest of the way.
Hurley and Kasal kept Green Bay in it down the stretch, as three straight Phoenix points by Hurley knotted the score at 17-17 and two late points by Kasal had the game tied at 23-23. A double-block by Hurley and Mroczenski gave the Phoenix its first of three set-point opportunities at 25-24, but the Buckeyes answered each time and were able to use back-to-back points by Andrea Kacsits to secure the 29-27 win and the 1-0 lead.
Green Bay bounced right back in set number two, using a 7-1 run that included a trio of kills by Hurley to open up a 14-8 advantage. OSU used a 4-0 run of its own to cut the lead to 17-15, but back-to-back kills by Kasal returned the momentum to the Phoenix. The Buckeyes made one last rally, getting to within one (21-20), but the Phoenix finished strong and a kill by Hurley delivered the 25-22 victory and even the match at 1-1.
The third set was the most uneven, as OSU opened up a five-point lead midway through and never allowed the Phoenix to get any closer than two. The Buckeyes’ six-point lead at the end (25-19) was its largest of the set.
Green Bay has one match remaining in the NIU Invitational – a 5 p.m. meeting with another 2012 NCAA tourney team Liberty at Victor E. Court.
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