|Kills||Olivia Fairchild (11)||Anja Malesevic (11)|
|Assists||Sophia Plett (15)||Grace Campbell (26)|
|Aces||Two tied (1)||Grace Campbell (3)|
|Digs||Morgan Williams (16)||Anja Malesevic (13)|
|Blocks||Nicole Freeley (3)||Chichi Ikwuazom (8)|
NEW YORK — Led by senior Anja Malesevic’s double-double, the Columbia volleyball team won its first home match of the season in convincing fashion, 3-0 (25-16, 25-21, 25-19), Friday night at Levien Gymnasium. The contest was Columbia’s first as part of the three-day Big Apple Battle.
Columbia (4-3) held Fordham (7-4) to an .036 attack percentage by registering a season-high 11 blocks. Sophomore Chichi Ikwuazom was the leading force on defense, marking her best output of the year with eight rejections, including five in the final set.
“The team was definitely motivated to play in front of the home crowd for the first time this season,” commented head coach Brie Katz. “We started strong and our service game was pretty strong for most of the night. I was proud of how we rallied, especially in the second set, and the fight was there. We competed as a team, which is something we emphasize all the time.”
Columbia came into the weekend ranked No. 3 in the NCAA in aces per set (2.09) and kept pace with six aces through Friday night’s three-setter. The only set the Lions were in any danger of losing was the second. Fordham jumped ahead 6-1, but Columbia rallied to tie it up at 13 before taking its first lead, 17-16. The Lions scored the final three points of the set to take a two-set lead and used six blocks in the final frame to hold the Rams to -.054 and earn the sweep.
Adding to her eight blocks, Ikwuazom hit .467 with nine kills. Junior Luciana Del Valle also had nine kills and came up with 11 digs. Sophomore setter Grace Campbell had a match-high 26 assists and three aces.
The very first point of the 2017 home season was an ace served by Campbell, which set the tone for an opening set that belonged to Columbia. Fordham hung around early and even led 5-3, but Columbia outscored the Rams 14-2 from there, which included three straight kills by Ikwuazom and back-to-back aces by rookie Kaitlin Schultz. Malesevic helped to cement the first, hitting .455 with a set-high five kills and eight digs as Columbia rolled by nine.
Fordham came out with six of the first seven points in the second, but Columbia found the response it needed to take a two-set lead. A 7-3 spurt that included a pair of kills by Dailey and Malesevic, a pair of blocks by Campbell and Ikwuazom, as well as a Campbell ace brought the Lions back within a point. A few rallies later, Malesevic and Schultz combined for the block to tie things up for the first time at 13. Columbia then took its first lead of the set on a kill by Schultz, 17-16, and ended a 7-1 run ahead 21-17 off another block by Campbell and Ikwuazom. Malesevic clinched the set with her 10th kill of the match.
Malesevic led all players with 10 kills and 13 digs at the intermission. Campbell had already racked up 21 assists off the team’s 25 kills, and also had three blocks to share the match lead with Ikwuazom.
Columbia turned in six blocks in the final set, five with the help of Ikwuazom, and left little to doubt. Del Valle earned an ace as part of an early 4-0 run and Schultz served another 4-0 run that put the Lions in front, 14-8. Fordham scored three straight out of a timeout to get back within three, but that was as close as the set would get. Del Valle turned in four of Columbia’s 11 kills in the final frame before junior Madeleine Casey sealed the victory.
All three matches of day two of the Big Apple Battle take place Saturday at Levien Gymnasium. Action begins at noon when Fordham battles St. Francis Brooklyn. The Rams hang around for a 4 p.m. matchup with LIU Brooklyn before the nightcap between Columbia and St. Francis at 6 p.m. All three matches can be accessed on the Ivy League Network.