Falcons split matches to begin MAC play

By Zane Miller and By Zane Miller

The Falcons volleyball team fell to the Miami RedHawks 3-1 in their first Mid-American Conference match of the season Thursday night, before taking their first MAC victory of the season against the Northern Illinois Huskies Saturday night 3-2.

    Thursday’s match featured a promising start for the Falcons, as they took the first set 25-19. However, Miami was able to quickly turn things around in the second set, pulling away from a 22-22 tie to win a close one 25-23. This tied the match as the teams headed into the locker room.

    When the teams returned for the third set, Miami was able to maintain their momentum from the second as they pulled ahead to win 29-27. Needing a win to stay alive, the Falcons were able to make the fourth set another close one, but a five point rally from Miami gave them a 25-23 win and the 3-1 victory in the match.

    “This was a disappointing loss,” Falcons head coach Danijela Tomic said. “We did so many things so well. We fought, the difference was a few points at the end of the sets. It’s just kind of the same story of figuring out how to close matches.”

    The team traveled back home for Saturday night’s match, but unlike Thursday’s match, it was Northern Illinois with the win in the first set, taking it 25-20. The second set was similar to the first one, as Northern Illinois also took it 25-20, putting the Falcons into a hole going into the intermission.

    “We talked in the locker room over the 10 minute break about competing,” Tomic said. “There was just no energy on the court and we talked about a warrior spirit. That’s something that our team is embracing. We talked about what warriors do and I didn’t think that we showed that behavior.”

    Despite needing three straight wins, the Falcons were able to claw their way back into the match with a 25-23 win in the third set with two key late kills from sophomore outside hitter Jessi Holly. In the fourth set, the Falcons were again able to pull away and win 25-21, taking advantage of Northern Illinois errors late to force a fifth set. With the teams tied at 11 in the fifth, a kill from senior outside hitter Nicole Slimko as well as a Northern Illinois attack error gave the Falcons a two-point lead. Northern Illinois got a kill to cut the lead in half, but the Falcons restored the lead on the ensuing service error. The teams went back and forth until a Slimko kill gave the team the 15-13 set win and the 3-2 comeback victory.

    “Once we adjusted, our defense again kept us in the match, creating some opportunities,” Tomic said. “We just started doing the little things better and the accumulation of all of those things helped us win that third set, then with the momentum you get a little bit more comfortable and start playing a little bit more loose, you get some lucky breaks and that’s what happened.”

    The team will next play on Friday and Saturday night, with two road matches, first against the Kent State Golden Flashes and then the Ohio Bobcats.