NEWARK, Del. - The No. 3 Tiger volleyball team dropped a heartbreaking 3-2 decision to No. 6 Virginia Commonwealth in the first round of the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament on Friday afternoon.
The Tigers (23-9) placed four players in double figure kills in the loss, led by CAA Player of the Year Katy Buck's 17 kills.
"I thought it was a roller coaster kind of match, like we've played all season," said CAA Coach of the Year Bruce Atkinson. "We are a young team and hopefully we can gain from the experience of this event and use it moving forward."
The Tigers found themselves down early as VCU (16-15) opened up a 16-5 lead behind a service ace from Cecilia Aragao. The Rams extended their lead to 20-9 before eventually taking the first set, 25-12.
The second set proved to be more of a battle as the Tigers came back from a 16-11 deficit to pull to within one at 17-16. The Rams recorded four of the next five points to push their lead to 21-17. The Tigers again rallied to within one at 23-22 before VCU eventually won the set 25-22.
In the third set with the match tied at 11-11, the Rams used a run to open up a 17-13 lead. VCU lead by 20-17 before back-to-back errors by the Rams made it a 20-19 set. Following a timeout, the Tigers used a block to tie the set at 20-20. The two squads battled through four more ties, before back-to-back kills from Buck gave the Tigers a 26-24 victory.
In the fourth set, the Tigers worked to open a 10-5 lead behind a kill from junior Alysha McCreary. Towson extended its lead to 17-12 behind a kill from Buck and forced VCU to take a timeout. The two teams continued to battle before a kill from junior Karolina Sawaniewicz gave Towson the 25-18 win.
In the decisive fifth set, the two teams were tied at 5-5. But, VCU used three straight points to open up an 8-5 lead. The Rams increased their lead to 10-6 before eventually taking the 15-7 victory, completing the Rams' upset.
Buck finished with 17 kills as she reached double digit kills for the 15th straight match. She added seven digs and two services aces in the contest.
McCreary had 13 kills, four digs and three block assists while Sawaniewicz had 12 kills. Sophomore I'ishah Keliikoa contributed 11 kills and three service aces while junior Aubrey Kirven posted a "double-double." Kirven had 46 assists and 10 digs while junior Stacey Niehoff led the Tigers with 16 digs.
Kristin Boyd led VCU with 18 kills and four blocks while Aragao had 50 assists and eight digs.
The Tigers, who were vastly improved this season, lose senior Susan Gansor to graduation but return Buck and the rest of the starting line-up next season.
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