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Volleyball falls to 0-3 in Hampton Inn Invitational

The Falcon volleyball team hosted the Hampton Inn Invitational this weekend at the Stroh Center finishing the tournament with a 0-3 record.

The Pittsburgh Panthers ended up winning the tournament with a 3-0 record followed by Dayton who went 2-1, and Middle Tennessee State who mustered up a 1-2 record.

Although the Falcons struggled to get a win, they showed flashes of what this team could be like later down the road, showing resiliency in every set

they played.

Starting with Dayton, the Falcons had some jitters to overcome early on as they went down 7 to 3. Freshman Nicole Slimko stepped up and delivered a few kills to tie it up. The Falcons won the first set it 25 to 18.

From there it all went downhill for the Falcons as Dayton came out and won the next three sets 25-18, 25-18, 25-23 to win the match three to one.

The Falcons ended the first match with Slimko posting 19 kills, along with nine digs and two aces. Sophomore Alyssa Maloney finished with six kills and three blocks. Sophomore Madeline Garda added 22 digs and sophomore Jelena Sunjic had 10 kills, four digs and two blocks. Senior Kelsey Bates finished with eight kills and seven digs and classmate Erica Fullenkamp ended the day with 40 assists five digs and two aces.

Head coach Danijela Tomic was proud of how they played in the game.

“I was very proud of how competitive they were,” said Tomic. “Especially in the third set and that we didn’t give up. This is a team of freshman and sophomores mostly and we made some freshman and sophomore mistakes … I just want them to think about all the positive things we did and learn from the mistakes and do better tomorrow.”

One positive thing they took away from not only the Dayton match but every other one was the effort the team had during the

tournament.

“We have been working really hard in preseason,” said Slimko. “I think that it showed tonight on how hard we have been working and we are driving to never let the ball fall and always going for everything and I think we showed that.”

The Falcons then moved on to Saturday’s games facing off first against Middle Tennessee State.

At first the team struggled losing the first set 25 to 17 with a hit percentage of .148 percent to Middle Tennessee’s .478 percent. The Falcons turned over a new leaf in the second set as they opened the set with a kill on the first point. The Falcons then built an 8 to 5 lead then a 14 to 11 lead and never looked back as they won the set 25 to 22.

From there on out it was neck and neck with the Blue Raiders winning the third set 25 to 23 and the Falcons winning the fourth 25 to 19. Middle Tennessee took the victory winning the fifth set 15 to 9 handing the Falcons their second straight loss.

The Falcons would finish with Slimko having another impressive match getting a team-high 14 kills. Freshman, Paige O’Connor got her first playing time in her career racking up 12 kills against Middle Tennessee. Fullenkamp added 37 assists along with 10 digs, while Bates got 10 kills and a personal record eight blocks.

Even with the loss, Tomic likes the competitiveness she saw from the group and thinks this team can be something special down the road.

“I think this team is a special team even now,” Tomic said. “We just need experience. This is a natural process of team development and I mean, we have two seniors who are doing their best to lead this young group and they have to be patient. We as coaches have to be patient and take every opportunity from a win or loss and just

get better.”

Even with the loss, Tomic continues to be impressed by the resiliency this team shows not losing morale and fighting to the

last point.

“It is huge,” Tomic said. “It just tells you about the character of these kids. So when we are on we are very good. You can see moments of excellence; it is just we are not consistent and that just boils down to youth and how young we are … these kids will grow and mature with every match.”

The Falcons then played their final match against Pittsburgh exposing their inexperienced youth even more as Pittsburgh dominated the match winning three straight sets 25-19, 25-7, 25-14.

The match started off with both teams competing at a high level but mid-way through the first Pittsburgh got a big league and never looked back.

Slimko lead the team with seven kills in the game followed by Maloney’s four and Bates finished with three.

With the weekend over, Tomic and the Falcons look to use this weekend in preparation for their next tournament.

“That is what preseason is for,” Tomic said. “We play in practice every day against each other, but it is different when you have teams across the net with different styles of play [and] different players and it just exposes all of your weaknesses and strengthens and it gives us a better idea of what we need to work on.”

With three consecutive losses that could hurt the morale of any team, Fullenkamp is not looking at how you start, but how you finish.

“We are playing for the end of the season right now and what we are looking for each game is to improve and we are trying to build off our improvement and trying to get better,” she said.

The Falcons will head to Dayton next weekend to compete in the Wright State Invitational. Their first game is on Friday at 7 p.m. against California State University, Baskersfield.

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