It took five sets, but the University of Toledo women's volleyball team triumphed over Western Michigan on Friday night in a critical Mid-American Conference match.
The Broncos won the first and third sets handily, while the Rockets took sets two and four. UT grabbed a significant early lead in the decisive fifth frame, but had to fight off a few late points from Western Michigan before sealing the deal to improve to 4-7 in MAC play.
Chloee Kleespies had a terrific night, registering 20 kills and three blocks. The sophomore had seven terminations in the fourth set win and four kills in the final set of the night. Elise Wilcox set a career high in kills for the second straight match, tallying 13 against the Broncos. Alexis Falzone also set a career high with six blocks, while Carly Townsend added five blocks and 48 assists. Maurissa Leonard added 29 digs and teammates Rhyen Neal (12) and Townsend (10) both reached double figures in that category as well.
Toledo will battle Northern Illinois on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. at Savage Arena.
Set 1 (25-16, WMU)
The two sets Western Michigan won, it won without question. The Broncos hit .417 in the first set compared to Toledo's .115. The Rockets led just once, at 2-1, before WMU ripped off a 13-4 run to take a commanding 14-6 lead. Toledo's deficit grew to double digits thanks to a 6-0 spurt that put Western Michigan ahead, 23-12. WMU would go on to win 25-16 and take a 1-0 lead in the match.
Set 2 (25-23, UT)
Set two was closer, but the Rockets never trailed at any point. They scored the first four points of the set, three of which came off the hands of Zoe Birnbrich. Toledo's lead ballooned to 17-11 and a 1-1 tie in the match seemed to be looming. The Broncos did not go down without a fight though; They scored eight of the next 10 points to storm back and tie the set at 19-19. The score was tied as late as 23-23, but two straight points by the Midnight Blue and Gold secured the win. Leonard was all over the place in the second set, registering 13 digs.
Set 3 (25-14, WMU)
Toledo scored the first point of the third set, but that was the last time it found itself ahead of Western Michigan. The Broncos hit .444 in the third frame; Rachel Bontrager successfully converted six of her nine attack attempts in a dominant performance. The Rockets were within just two points as late as 14-12, but the Broncos scored the next seven points to put UT into a deep hole. WMU won, 25-14, to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
Set 4 (25-20, UT)
The most back-and-forth set of the night, the fourth frame featured 11 tie scores and seven lead changes. Toledo led, 6-3, before surrendering the next four points to fall behind, 7-6. The Broncos were able to pull ahead by three, 12-9, but neither team would lead by more than two again until the Rockets took a 22-19 lead on back-to-back kills from Emma Swope and Kleespies. Toledo ended the fourth set with three straight points in thrilling style: a block from Falzone and Kleespies, a monster kill from Falzone, and a service ace from Haley Sendelbach.
Set 5 (15-13, UT)
After Western Michigan took a 2-1 lead, Toledo rattled flipped the script to take an 8-5 advantage. WMU, however, was able to force ties at 8-8, 10-10, and 11-11. A kill from Swope put the Rockets ahead, 13-11, and then an unorthodox point from Andrea Stephenson put UT at match point, leading 14-12. Fittingly, Kleespies' arm tallied the final point of the night and sent the Rockets home as winners over the Broncos.