by Luke Stanczyk
In their first true “home” match, the Benedictine University Volleyball team defeated the Lakeland Muskies in three straight sets, 25-13, 25-16 and 25-17, in the first round of the Northern Athletics Conference tournament.
The second-seeded Eagles came out on fire, as they began the first set on a 5-0 scoring run highlighted by two services aces by junior Kara Zuro. From there, BenU controlled the game and closed out the set on 6-0 run.
“We were ready to go right away,” Head Coach Jen Wildes explained. “We started tough and did a pretty good job of scoring points after that.”
In set two, Lakeland, who was the seven seed in the tournament, was able to match Benedictine for much of the set. However, the Eagles would pull away, ending the game on an 11-3 run.
BenU would take an early 3-0 lead in the third set and control the momentum for most of the set. However, the Muskies would go on a 6-1 run to pull within in one. With the score 18-17, Benedictine would close out the match on a 7-0 run, which was highlighted by sophomore Candice Cuppini’s three kills.
It only took an hour and five minutes for the Eagles to finish off their opponent, something that coming out on a hot start allowed them to do.
“We had a lot of energy, and we beat them really fast,” added Cuppini.
Cuppini, who was third in the NAC in kills during the regular season, led the Eagles with 10. Fellow sophomore Nicloe Adams added seven kills, while NAC assists leader and freshman Abby Sattler recorded 28 of the team’s 31 assists. BenU also had three players finish with double-digit digs: Zuro (11), sophomore Haley Fitzgerald (11) and junior Meagan Kmieciak (10).
The game was the first time the BenU Volleyball team was able to play a home game on campus this season, as the Dan and Ada Rice Center underwent renovations and repairs.
“[It was] a little strange,” Wildes said. “We’re just so used to being on the road. It was nice to have to load up and get into a van or bus. We were able to walk out into the gym in front of our own fans and our family, and I think we were very excited about that.”
“It was awesome,” Cuppini stated. “I’m glad we had a home game, finally.”
The Eagles will face third seeded Edgewood College on Thursday in the second round of the NAC tournament. A win would put the Eagles in the championship game for the second straight season.
“We want to keep the momentum and keep playing like we are, running good plays and everyone playing well together,” Cuppini explained.
Thursday’s game will take place in the Dan and Ada Rice Center at 7 p.m.
“I think with the Conference Tournament, you just worry about your side,” Wildes explained.” We want to make sure we are playing our best.”