The University of Toledo women's volleyball team split its Saturday Blue and Gold Tournament matches, defeating Loyola in five sets after falling to Western Kentucky earlier in the day.
The five-set thriller against Loyola capped an exciting weekend of volleyball at Savage Arena. The Ramblers won the first and third sets handily, while the Rockets won sets two and four in close fashion. In the decisive fifth set, Toledo held on to win, 18-16, and capture its first win of 2019.
Senior Zoe Birnbrich led the way with 16 kills while hitting .343. Freshman Ryann Jaqua (11 kills, 16 digs) and junior Chloee Kleespies (11 kills, 12 digs) were two of the Rockets' biggest contributors, and freshman Olivia Vance added seven kills and seven blocks. Junior Rhyen Neal tallied a career-high 24 digs.
Toledo started the day by falling to Western Kentucky in three sets. Kleespies led the team with eight kills and seven digs, while Birnbrich added five terminations and three blocks. Sophomores Maddie Fogg and Elise Wilcox tallied four kills apiece, and Fogg was credited with 20 assists.
The Rockets will be on the road next weekend for a tournament hosted by Radford. Toledo will also face Norfolk State and Rider at the tournament.
Quotable: "I thought this was a good growth weekend for us. We played three quality teams and they brought out the good and bad in our team. We talk about earning everything with our players. We earned the bad and the good this weekend. Hopefully the positive results will give us confidence to train harder this next week and earn more positive results." -Head Coach Jason Oliver
Toledo 3, Loyola 2
The Rockets were able to start the match off on the right foot, taking a 10-8 lead over the Ramblers to start the action. Loyola grabbed control of the set from that point on, rattling off 17 of the next 22 points to cruise to a 25-15 win. Loyola hit .276 in the first set to jump ahead of the Rockets, 1-0.
The Ramblers looked to be in control in the second frame, leading 20-14 at one point. Toledo fought to pull within one, 23-22, but Loyola was able to push the Rockets to the brink and make the score 24-22. The Midnight Blue and Gold then scored the next four points to stun the Ramblers and win, 26-24, to tie the match at 1-1. Vance, Birnbrich, and Kleespies tallied the points for Toledo, with Kleespies registering the clinching block.
Loyola hit .333 in the third set, which helped its cause in a 25-15 win that put the Rockets in a 2-1 hole in the match. The two teams started out tied at 7-7, but five straight Rambler points quickly put them ahead 12-7. They didn't look back en route to winning the third set and putting the Rockets on the ropes.
The fourth set was a wild one, featuring 13 ties and seven lead changes. Loyola once again held a late lead over Toledo, sitting in front by a score of 19-16. The Rockets took the lead with four straight points, a stretch that culminated in clutch block from Jaqua and Vance to make the score 20-19. The Ramblers were able to inch their way back and push the Rockets to the brink, putting the score at 24-23 and one point away from a win. Toledo would not back down though, scoring four of the next five points to win, 27-25, and force a fifth set. Kleespies and Birnbrich tallied the tying and winning points, respectively. Birnbrich was huge in the fourth set, tallying five kills.
Fittingly, the fifth set was a close one between Toledo and Loyola. The Rockets jumped out to a 4-1 lead to get the home crowd on its feet, but Loyola was able fight back and tie the set at 10-10. The Ramblers twice pushed the Rockets to a match point, at 14-13 and 15-14, but Toledo held firm each time. With the score tied at 16-16, Jaqua recorded her biggest kill of the night, and a Loyola attack error ended the match and gave the Rockets their first win of 2019.
Western Kentucky 3, Toledo 0
The Hilltoppers came out firing to start the match, going on a 13-4 run to kick off action. After that point, Toledo was able to score four of the next five point to cut the deficit to six, but WKU surged ahead to take the first set, 25-13.
The second set was the most competitive of the match for the Rockets. After falling behind, 6-3, Toledo scored six of the next seven points to take a 9-7 advantage. Birnbrich and Kleespies combined for a huge block to tie the score at 6-6, then Kleespies followed it up with a big swing for a kill to make it 7-6. Western Kentucky flipped the script with a 5-0 run to turn a two-point deficit into a three-point lead, putting the Rockets in a 12-9 hole. The Rockets hung around and got as close as two points, 20-18, but the Hilltoppers pulled away for a 25-19 win.
The final set of the match was the most lopsided, with WKU coming out on top, 25-10. Toledo fell behind early, 9-1, and was unable to close the gap. Western Kentucky hit .571 in the final set to cap a 3-0 win over the Rockets.