USAFA, CO – The Winthrop volleyball team opened its 2014 campaign at the Falcon Classic Friday, downing the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 3-0 before falling 3-0 to the host Air Force Falcons.
Winthrop fell behind early to the Scarlet Knights in the opening set 7-4. The Eagles battled back with an 11-3 run to grab a 15-10 advantage. Winthrop continued to lead at 20-14 and after a Rutgers timeout, the Scarlet Knights went on a 7-1 run to tie the set at 21-21. After the two teams traded four points, Winthrop faced set point at 24-23. A kill from Brianna Gray tied the set at 24-24 before two errors by Rutgers gave the Eagles a 26-24 opening-set victory.
The beginning of the second set was hard-fought as the two squads were even through the first 28 points, 14-14. Winthrop then went on a 6-1 run to open a 20-15 lead. Following a timeout, Rutgers grabbed three straight points to close to within 20-18, but didn’t score another point as Winthrop took the final five to win the second set 25-18.
The Eagles dominated the third set. After an early 3-3 tie, the Eagles took eight of the next nine points to open a commanding 11-4 lead. Winthrop led by as much as nine at 19-10, but Rutgers slowly cut down the Eagle advantage. The Scarlet Knights fought back to within three at 24-21, but Winthrop held on for the 25-21 victory.
Senior Alina Sopizhuk led the Eagles with 12 kills while sophomore Emma Weakland tallied 10 kills in the victory. Senior Jessie Vicic finished with 32 assists while three Eagles each notched seven digs.
As a team the Eagles finished with 43 kills and a .278 hitting percentage with 40 assists, 35 digs and six total blocks.
Against the host Falcons, the Eagles played a hard-fought match, falling in each set by three points or less. In the opening set, Winthrop was able to battle back from an early deficit to grab a 15-10 lead. Air Force slowly chipped away at the Winthrop advantage and tied the set at 17-17. After the Eagles took the next two points, the Falcons were able to take eight of the final 11 points of the set to win 25-22.
The second set was tight throughout with neither team able to earn more than a three-point advantage. Late in the set Winthrop trailed 23-20, picked up the next two points to get within one, but was unable to complete the comeback, falling again 25-22.
The final set was a rollercoaster with both teams overcoming multi-point deficits. Winthrop led early 10-7 before the Falcons fought back to tie the set at 15-15 before taking a 20-16 advantage. The Eagles didn’t go down quietly, taking the next five points to grab a 21-20 edge. The lead was short-lived as the Falcons took four of the next five points to earn match point at 24-22. Winthrop fought off one match point on a kill from Emma Weakland and couldn’t hold any more as the Falcons won the third set 25-23.
Weakland and Sopizhuk again led the Eagles offensively as they both tallied 11 kills in the loss. Junior Rachel Lenz and sophomore Brianna Gray each finished with eight kills. Vicic totaled 35 assists and six digs to lead Winthrop in both categories while Lenz finished with one solo block and four block assists.
The Eagles hit .204 against the Falcons with 45 kills and 41 assists. Winthrop 28 digs, two service aces and six team blocks.
Winthrop will return to the court on Saturday to finish off their trip to Colorado as the Eagles face Southern Illinois-Edwardsville at noon following by California at 7 p.m.