Nearly one calendar year removed from a thrilling five-set victory over Capital, the Denison volleyball team gave the Crusaders a touch of déjà vu as they rallied for a 3-2 (23-25, 14-25, 25-17, 25-19, 15-5) decision on Wednesday night in Bexley, Ohio.
Last year in Granville, the Big Red grabbed the early 2-0 match lead before back-to-back victories by Capital forced a decisive fifth set. Even though the route to the final set was reversed, the result was the same as DU once again took down the Crusaders.
Denison wasted no time grabbing the early advantage in the fifth-and-final set, as they scored the first four points behind a pair of Annemarie Fischer kills and two Crusader attacking errors. Following a Capital kill to break up the run, Denison answered with four more points to grab an 8-1 lead. Sophomores Elena Lein and Brittany Perry teamed up for two blocks, while senior Sarah Blum also added an ace.
When the two squads switched courts, the Big Red held a commanding 8-2 advantage. After a Capital service error made it a 9-2 score, junior libero Emily Marguerite extended the DU advantage with sixth ace of the match. Denison continued to extend its lead behind a Perry kill and a block by sophomore Kenzie Kuhn. The Crusaders tried to climb back into the match, shrinking the deficit to 14-5. However, freshman setter Carly Newell found Fischer for the final point of the set.
In the final set, DU registered six kills on 15 attempts with no errors, while Capital logged three kills and five miscues in 20 chances.
The Crusaders took a back-and-forth first set via 25-23 score, and grabbed a 2-0 lead in the match with a 25-14 win in the second set. Denison scored the first three points of the third set thanks to a pair of Lauren Gustafson kills and a third by Fischer. The Big Red methodically built a 13-3 behind the service of Marguerite. Trailing 20-9, Capital scored eight of the next 11 points to trim the deficit to six. However, a kill by freshman Rachele Lock and an ace by junior Allie Becker broke up Capital's shutout bid.
In the fourth set, the home team jumped out to a 4-0 before a 6-1 put DU ahead. Denison maintained its lead throughout the majority of the match until a Hanna Ewart kill tied the match at 17-17. The Big Red regained the lead when Lein and Fischer teamed up for a block. Denison got some help extending the lead as Capital committed back-to-back attacking errors. The Crusaders got within two, but three miscues coupled with a pair of Gustafson kills tied the match at 2-2, forcing a final set.
Lein and Gustafson recorded 12 kills apiece, while Perry and Fischer added eight and seven kills, respectively. Borsani finished the match with 32 assists and 16 digs, while newcomer Newell dished out 15 helpers. Marguerite recorded a career-high six aces, while Blum also served up a pair to go along with 10 digs. In addition to her serving performance, the junior libero also posted 33 digs. At the net, Lein finished with one solo block and six block assists, while Lock and Perry had three and two block assists, respectively.
Denison improves to 3-2, while the Crusaders fall to 2-3. The Big Red returns to action this weekend at the North Park Clash in Chicago, Ill. DU opens the tournament on Friday against Manchester (4 p.m. CDT) and Marian (6 p.m. CDT).