GRANVILLE, Ohio – Highlighted by a comeback performance in the first match, Denison volleyball went 1-1 on Sunday afternoon, defeating Hiram College in the first match, 3-2 (20-25, 22-25, 26-24, 25-19, 15-11), before falling to Otterbein University, 3-2 (20-25, 32-30, 26-24, 22-25, 7-15) at Livingston Gymnasium.
Against Hiram, the Big Red dropped the first two sets as the Terriers opened an early 2-0 advantage. Denison then countered in the next two sets, led by sophomore Alex Tubbs' five kills in the third and Leah Reinfranck's five total points in the fourth set.
Entering the fifth set, DU jumped out to an early 7-1 lead thanks to back-to-back kills from Kaila Kasper. Hiram's Jessica Fontana recorded the next two points for the Terriers but kills by Emma Woerner and Isabella Pivec finalized the 3-2 victory and earned Denison their first North Coast Athletic Conference win of the season.
The Big Red totaled four players with 11 or more kills in the match, led by Woerner's 13 kills. Junior Julia Miller paced DU with 48 assists while Kristin Thewes added 37 digs. Hiram's Kiara Franks led all players with 14 kills and added 23 digs, as the Terriers dropped to 12-6 on the season.
Against Otterbein, Denison fell in the first set 25-20, but Kasper's three consecutive kills late in the second set helped the Big Red tie the match at 1-1 with a back-and-forth 32-30 victory. DU wrapped up the third set with a 26-24 win, but late kills from Otterbein's Alana King-Mendenhall and Emily Shuk gave the Cardinals a fourth set victory, tying the match at 2-2.
In the final set, an error by Otterbein's Olivia Harris gave the Big Red an early advantage, but three straight points from the Cardinals were too much to handle as Denison endured their first loss of the day, 3-2.
Woerner's 22 kills tied for the match lead, while Kasper finished second on the team with 16 kills. Miller recorded a new season-high with 56 assists and Thewes tied her season-best with 39 digs, a mark set on Sept. 28 in a 3-2 loss at Bluffton University.
The Cardinals were led by Hadley Sterett's 22 kills and a match-high 67 assists from Andrea Miller. The loss moves the Big Red to 8-7 overall, while Otterbein improves to 17-1.
Denison will hit the road on Tuesday, October 3 as they head to Delaware, Ohio to take on Ohio Wesleyan University at 7 p.m.