Volleyball has good showing at Duquesne Invitational

Edward Major II/Staff Photographer | Sophomore middle hitter Liz Wayne attempts to kill a ball against Northern Kentucky on Sept. 1. The Dukes fell in four sets to the Norse, 3-1. Wayne finished the game with seven kills for Duquesne.
Edward Major II/Staff Photographer | Sophomore middle hitter Liz Wayne attempts to kill a ball against Northern Kentucky on Sept. 1. The Dukes fell in four sets to the Norse, 3-1. Wayne finished the game with seven kills for Duquesne.

David Borne | Staff Writer

A busy weekend of volleyball for the Dukes came to a close on Saturday night as Duquesne beat Robert Morris 3-0 at the A.J. Palumbo Center. The win over the Colonials boosted Duquesne’s record to 4-3 on the year and 3-1 for the weekend.

The Dukes hosted the annual Duquesne Invitational this past weekend, with five teams in total fielding the bracket this season. Canisius, Coppin State, Northern Kentucky and Robert Morris joined the Dukes in the two-day showcase on Duquesne’s campus.

Duquesne started the weekend strong on Friday afternoon, as they were able to take down a sloppy Coppin State squad in three straight sets. Freshman Maria Mosbacher led the way for Duquesne, recording a team-high 12 kills supplemented by a lean hit percentage of .458.

Friday night came with a tougher test and a less desirable result, as Duquesne was unable to keep up with Northern Kentucky’s high-powered attack and dropped the match to NKU 3-1. Dukes junior libero Camryn Vecera was able to dig out 28 Norse scoring attempts but Duquesne committed 31 errors against Northern Kentucky, and provided the Norse with far too many opportunities to battle back with.

After a forgetful performance against NKU, the Dukes were able to reconvene and take down Canisius 3-1 on Saturday afternoon. Despite dropping a highly contested third set, Duquesne was able to best the Golden Griffins one set later to secure the victory.

Later that evening, the Dukes defeated Robert Morris in three straight sets to cap off the showcase event.

After opening the 2017 campaign with consecutive losses to Xavier, Bowling Green and UIC, head coach Steve Opperman said that he was pleased with the progress and adjustments that his team made on their home court this past weekend.

“We’ve been toying with lineups. I think this lineup is the one that’s probably going to stick now. Kids aren’t healthy. Molly Davet is a senior and was an all-conference player last year, and was our best starting outside last year, but she tore her ACL in the last match of the season,” coach Opperman said.

“She has really worked well to get back on the court and has played great defensively in the back row for us. She’s contributing any way she can,” Opperman remarked.

“You never know, by the end of the season she could be earning that starting outside spot back. We’re really just enjoying what we’re doing now, making our adjustments. I think moving forward we have some really great volleyball ahead of us.”

A key factor in Duquesne’s win over the Colonials on Saturday evening was its ability to shutdown freshman middle blocker Emma Granger. Granger, who was named to the all-tournament team this past weekend, recorded only six kills against Duquesne.

“Emma’s a really good player. She’s doing some really nice things [for Robert Morris]. She hits a heavy ball and moves around the floor well,” Opperman said.

“If you hit directly in front of her, you’re going to get blocked every time. We know her strengths. We just said, ‘Hey, if she gets her kills, she gets her kills, so let’s just take care of the ball on our side of the court,’ and we did what we needed to do,” said Opperman of his team’s strategy.

For the Dukes, freshman Maria Mosbacher has started her first year on the Bluff impressively. She was second on the team in kills against RMU with 15, and currently has 106 kills on the season following Duquesne’s 3-2 victory at St. Francis on Tuesday evening.

Mosbacher joins a powerful offensive attack for Duquesne that includes junior Maddie Bazelak, sophomore Liz Wayne and senior Abby Trzeciak. Opperman is looking forward to see what Mosbacher can bring to the team come conference play.

“We’re excited. She still has some rough edges that she still needs to work out,” Opperman said.

“I think when kids make the transition from high school and club ball to college, they’re used to hitting through blocks pretty easily. Now you’re going [up] against bigger kids and more mature kids, and sometimes she still has that mindset that she’s just going to rip through the block, and she’s getting blocked. She’s learning to be a bit of a smarter attacker,” Opperman said.

With a tough slate ahead at the Nike Classic in Eugene, Oregon, the Dukes hope to play well against top competition at a showcase put on by Duquesne’s new apparel manufacturer.

On Sept. 8 and 9, Duquesne will look to channel the same energy that they exhibited this past weekend while aiming to minimize their errors against stiffer competition, as they’ll face No. 23 Wichita State, Cal Poly and No. 14 Oregon on Oregon’s home court in Eugene for the Nike Classic.

Following the Dukes’ trip westward, they will compete in the Ball State/Butler Invitational on the campuses of both schools. The Dukes will face Ball State on Sept. 15 in Muncie, Indiana, and will then face Butler and Evansville in separate contests on Sept. 16 in Indianapolis.