NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Freshman Phia Bellizzi tied a program record Saturday afternoon with 43 digs in the second match of Saturday's doubleheader, as the Wesleyan University volleyball team split its two games against top-25 teams. The Cardinals lost their first match of 2017 in the first contest of the day against No. 9 Juniata, 3-0 (25-23, 25-18, 25-16), but responded with a thrilling 3-2 victory over No. 24 Christopher Newport (25-22, 20-25, 20-25, 25-18, 16-14).
The loss to the Eagles snapped an eight-match winning streak. The 8-0 start to the season was Wesleyan's best start since 1989, and the second-best ever. Also, it was the first time in program history that the Cardinals opened the season with eight straight victories without losing a set.
MATCH 1 HIGHLIGHTS VS. JUNIATA:
- The first set went back-and-forth early. Trailing by three, the Eagles went on a 6-0 run to take a 15-12 lead. Down the stretch, back-to-back kills from Stasie Litinsky '20 and Olivia Guidotti '20, respectively, evened the game at 20-20. Six points later, tied at 23-23, a kill by Morgan Edwards followed by a Wesleyan error gave the Eagles the 25-23 win.
- Tied at 11-11 in the second game, Juniata went on a 7-0 run and never looked back as it took the set, 25-18.
- In the third, the Eagles opened with three straight points and never trailed as they took the match with a 25-16 victory.
- Litinsky led the Cardinals with nine kills, while Kaira Muraoka-Robertson '20 dished out 22 assists and Phia Bellizzi '21 totaled 13 digs.
- Juniata was led by Marybeth Weihbrecht's 11 kills, while Marie Gonsar added eight. Katie Thomas and Alyssa Tavera dished out 18 and 16 assists, respectively, and Katie Byrne led all players with 16 digs. Tavera added 12.
MATCH 2 HIGHLIGHTS VS. CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT:
- The Cardinals rallied in the second match of the day, and picked up a 25-22 victory in the first game. However, they dropped the next two by scores of 25-20 to put themselves in a difficult situation down 2-1 in the match.
- Wesleyan remained resilient though, and rallied with a 25-18 win in the fourth set to face a decisive fifth.
- The final game went back-and-forth throughout, and featured 10 ties before the Cardinals pulled away. Trailing 14-13, a kill by Madeleine Lundberg '19 jumpstarted a 3-0 run as Harper Graves '21 won the match with a kill off an assist from Muraoka-Robertson.
- Five players recorded double-digits kills for Wesleyan, as Nicole Hilton '20 led the way with 19 and a .308 hitting percentage. Litinsky and Graves added 15 kills, while Lundberg registered 12 and Gabby Bennett '20 totaled 10 with a .500 attack mark.
- Muraoka-Robertson dished out an incredible 63 assists, while Bellizzi was terrific with 43 digs. Lundberg added 16 digs, while Robi Frederick '21 and Muraoka-Robertson registered 14 and 13, respectively.
- Christopher Newport was led by Abby Oren, who totaled 14 kills and 13 digs, while Katie Crofford added 12 each and Katelyn Newsome recorded 10 kills. Ashley Burgess and Tylar McGill dished out 26 and 22 assists, respectively, and Josie Lucernoni led the team with 24 digs.
HEAD COACH BEN SOMERA:
- "I am pleased that we got the split today. CNU and Juniata are both nationally ranked programs that are always competitive regionally and nationally year after year."
- "I wish we had played more confidently in our first match against Juniata, but this was the first opportunity our team and program has had to play a perennial power and nerves and a lack of experience kept us from finding our flow in the match."
- "We played better in the first game against CNU and getting that first set really helped us settle in for a fight. The match was a great experience for our team because we were forced to make adjustments and change our serving strategy and counter adjustments that they made."
- The Cardinals return to Silloway Gymnasium on Friday, Sept. 29 and will host Trinity at 7 p.m.