Brentaro Yamane | Staff Writer
Feb. 18, 2021
The VCU women’s volleyball team got its brooms out and swept off Duquesne’s new court Friday, beating Duquesne 3-0 in the Dukes’ first-ever game at the newly-renovated UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse.
Last season, Duquesne played its home volleyball matches at PPG Paints Arena and Mt. Lebanon High School while the Fieldhouse was being renovated.
Duquesne had not played a home game on campus since Oct. 28, 2018, prior to Friday’s match against the Rams.
Duquesne Head Coach Steve Opperman knew how excited his team was to play in the new arena, and the team had been looking forward to it for a long time. It had been a full 464 days since the Dukes last played a game on their Bluff campus.
“It was awesome for our team to play in the new arena. The kids were excited to play,” Opperman said. “Our freshmen and sophomores have never played in this facility. The juniors and seniors have. It was a great experience for the younger kids to get in here and enjoy the atmosphere and basically get back on the court to compete.”
Things looked good for the Dukes in the early stages, scoring the first two points of the first match. Duquesne outside hitter Morgan Kelly recorded a kill, then an attack error was made by VCU. At one point in the first set, Duquesne was leading 18-14, but the Rams were able to come back to win the set 25-19.
The Rams took over after the first set.
The fact that VCU was able to come back in the first set after trailing by four points seemingly gave the team all the confidence it needed against Duquesne. VCU would win the second set 25-15 and the third set by a count of 25-14.
Duquesne scoring less in each match as the afternoon went on might appear concerning to the naked eye. Opperman, however, liked what he saw from his team after the first match.
“We showed some really good signs of what we can do. Overall, it wasn’t a great performance by any means, but it was a nice start to see things that our players have the potential of doing,” Opperman said. “The tough thing that we went through is that it was our first matchup of the season while it was VCU’s seventh matchup. However, I thought we fought hard even though the score didn’t show it.”
One of the most vicious plays of the game was in the third set when VCU’s Jasmine Knight recorded a kill, spiking the ball so hard on Duquesne’s side of the court that the ball ricocheted off the ground, onto the basketball backboard on the baseline and circled around the rim. The explosiveness of that play was one of the reasons why VCU looked like more of the dominant team in the game.
VCU led the game in many notable categories, including kills (51), assists (45), hitting percentage (.360), block assists (18) and digs (four). VCU’s Qairo Bentley led the game with kills (12) and points (13). Her 12 kills in the game is a new career-high. VCU’s Dani Jo David and Duquesne’s Hailey Poling led the game in assists with 22 each.
VCU now owns a 12-6 all-time series lead over Duquesne, with the Dukes losing their seven straight matchups against the Rams.
For Duquesne, its next game is not until Feb. 26, when the Dukes travel to take on Dayton. Until then, Opperman and his staff will work on some things that he thinks his team can improve upon after watching his team play against VCU.
“One of our first things that we are working on is our first touch or our first contact. I think that we did a decent job with our ball control. We need to adjust our in-game strategy, and I had advised the players to be more aggressive and more assertive when attacking regardless of the situation that we are in,” Opperman said.