VB goes 1-2 in invitational, loses road contest

Peter Boettger | Staff Photographer | Duquesne Head Coach Steve Opperman speaks to his players during the team’s loss against Robert Morris at UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse on Saturday.

Benjamin Gottschalk | Staff Writer

Sept. 8, 2022

After going 1-1 in the first two games of the Duquesne/Robert Morris Invitational, the Dukes fell to the Colonials in five sets in the event’s final match on Saturday afternoon at UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse.

On Friday morning, Duquesne collected a four-set victory over Canisius. That same night, the Dukes fell in three sets to William & Mary. An especially frustrating sequence came in the match’s first set, when the Dukes held a 23-19 edge before surrendering six-straight points to the Tribe en route to losing the first set.

“After William and Mary, we just talked about staying tough and the importance of finishing a set,” said Duquesne Head Coach Steve Opperman. “When you have a lead at the end of a set, you need to dig hard and close the set.”

For the entirety of the opening set, Duquesne held a slim lead. The score was tied six separate times and remained close until the Dukes went on a decisive 7-0 run to close out the first set by a 25-19 count.

The second set was all about the Colonials. It started out with the score tied at seven, but Robert Morris proceeded to go on a 12-2 run that buried the Dukes. Duquesne tried to fight back, but failed to establish enough momentum. Robert Morris won the set 25-16.

Duquesne fell behind 14-10 in the third set, but the Dukes began to gain ground, eventually taking a 22-21 lead. After a Colonials point tied the game up, the Dukes closed the set on a 3-0 run to win 25-22, taking a 2-1 lead in the match.

In the fourth set, the Dukes were down 10-6. After a large rally, the Dukes tied the score at 17. However, Robert Morris finished the set on an 8-3 run to win the fourth set 25-20, forcing a tiebreaking fifth set.

The fifth set was back and forth until Robert Morris went on a 3-0 run to bring the score to 7-3. The Colonials never looked back, ending the set on a 9-2 run and winning 15-7, thus securing a match victory.

“I don’t feel good about the outcome of the whole weekend altogether, but I think there were obviously high points and low points,” said Duquesne freshman Carsyn Henschen. “I think it’s very important to focus on these high points and build off of them.”

Henschen tallied 41 kills across the weekend, getting significant playing time in all three matches despite being a first-year player.

“We have a lot of girls who are hurt. It’s obviously every freshman’s dream to play a lot, and I give a lot of credit to my teammates and the coaches,” Henschen said. “You’re a freshman, it’s your first game and you’re nervous, but my teammates do such a good job making you not feel like a freshman.

“They make you feel like you have been there forever and that you have a purpose out there.”

Returning players like Morgan Kelly, Hailey Poling and Anna Shoemake also had their names written all over this weekend’s stat sheets, and will likely be counted on this season. Kelly collected 42 kills, while Shoemake tallied 19 kills and seven blocks across all three games. Poling put up 96 assists and 23 digs during the invitational.

Henschen spoke highly of the leadership provided by her more-experienced teammates.

“All three of them want to win. I think it’s great having teammates who want to be out there and have a purpose when they get out on the floor,” Henschen said. “Hailey is one of our leaders, and she showed that this weekend, stepping up when she had to … Anna and Morgan are just [the type of] people that you can turn to when you’re down.

“They’ll pick you right back up, and they are always two faces that you want to see.”

Kelly returned the favor, complementing her younger teammates despite the very limited experience that they’ve had to this point.

“The freshmen really stepped up this weekend, and they did an amazing job,” Kelly said. “Unfortunately, I think they do get in their [own] heads sometimes. They are still so young and are trying to learn, so we are trying our best to lead them so we can be successful in the future.

“A lot of what we have been working on in practice has been just meshing. So, working on team culture and communication is important.”

With a 1-5 record, the Dukes will look to find a way to gain momentum.

“We just need to get healthy and build from there. When you are playing a different lineup three weekends in a row, the consistency isn’t there immediately,” Opperman said after the weekend invitational. “We go back to the drawing board a little and just focus on some of the things that were lacking from this weekend and look to build going into the match on Tuesday.”

The Dukes fell in five sets in Tuesday’s road contest at Saint Francis (Pa.).

The team will travel to Tennessee for the Chattanooga Classic, which begins on Friday.