DENVER, Colo. — Powered by a career performance from sophomore Eve Kerschenbaum, Seattle U volleyball opened the 2019 campaign in winning fashion as it downed Southern Miss, 3-1 (25-20, 25-22, 21-25, 25-18), in the first match of the Denver Classic.
Kerschenbaum thrived in the opener as she paced all hitters with 24 kills, more than double the total of the next closest individual, while posting an efficient .340 hitting with seven errors on 46 attempts. She also notched her first career double-double, rounding out the afternoon with a 16-dig effort.
“Eve’s performance was pretty phenomenal,” stated Seattle U head coach James Finley. “It was really fun watching her back on the court and doing her thing. She had a huge game and we were fortunate at times that she got us out of some jams.”
Seattle U (1-0) trailed 12-9 in the early stages of the first frame, before turning the tide with a 7-1 rally. Behind a pair of back-to-back spurts USM (0-1) knotted the set at 18-all. Kerschenbaum and Sofia Sanchez then buried two kills apiece while the Golden Eagles timeouts had little effect on the Seattle U attack as it surged to a 23-18 advantage. Ezgi Ozkan added an ace, before USM miscues helped the Redhawks capture the opening point.
The momentum continued for the SU offense as it sprinted to a 7-3 lead to open the second, before pushing the margin the 14-8. Southern Miss sliced the Redhawk margin to one, 14-13, as it accounted for the next five points.
After trading 3-0 rallies, Seattle U took control late as it pieced together a 6-2 run, pushing the score to 23-18. USM narrowed the gap to 23-21 and 24-22, but its effort fell short as kills from Lauren McCabe and Kerschenbaum gave the Redhawks a 2-0 match lead.
See-saw action began the third as the sides saw four ties in the first 18 points. Southern Miss slowly pulled away midway though the stanza behind a 4-1 run, as it claimed a 17-13 lead.
The Redhawks though responded with a 6-2 rally with kills from Kerschenbaum, Amaris Carter and Ozkan, tying the frame, 19-19. The late SU push fell shy with the Golden Eagles made it 2-1 as they accounted for six of the final eight points.
Ozkan landed her second ace of the afternoon to open the fourth frame, setting off an 8-3 run by Seattle U. Back-to-back kills from Julia Queiroz and McCabe helped the Redhawks push the margin to 12-6. Coming out a timeout, a refocused USM side began trimming the SU margin as it used mini-spurts of two and three-point runs before eventually drawing even at 18-18.
Seattle U however regrouped following a timeout and slammed the door on Southern Miss as it rattled off seven unanswered points to earn the set, 25-18 and sealed the match. Kerschenbaum notched the final point with her 24th kill, tying Kaythln Dill, Sarah Jaeckel and Martina Samadan for 10th-best single-match performance while shattering her previous personal mark of 14.
“I’m a bit bummed with our performance in the third set, but overall we did some really amazing things and [I’m] really happy with the overall team performance ” said Finley.
In addition to the final tally, the Redhawks controlled the offensive boxscore, outhitting Southern Miss .215 to .171 to accompany a 56-47 margin in kills. Sanchez also reached double-figure kills finishing with 11.
Carter and Ozkan also made notable contributions in their debuts as Carter had nine kills, 11 digs and three blocks while Ozkan finished with a match-high 47 assists, nine digs and six blocks. Queiroz also posted six blocks. Tijana Milojevic’s 11 digs meanwhile pushed her career total to 1,008, making her the fourth Redhawk since 2008 to surpass the 1,000-dig milestone and first since Iris Ivanis.
The Redhawks return to action with a doubleheader tomorrow as they face San Francisco at 9 am PT before closing out the Denver Classic against the host Pioneers at 6 pm PT.