Highlander Classic unveils progress for RU volleyball

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Radford Volleyball proved they can contend with the best at the Highlander Classic in the Dedmon Center this weekend. The Highlanders defeated the Savannah State Tigers twice in three set sweeps, but lost in four both times to the Tulane University Green Wave.

The tournament format saw the Highlanders play twice each day. Kicking off weekend play, RU swept Savannah State in three sets. Freshman setter Rachel Flores led the Highs in game one, tallying a season-high 32 assists, seven digs and seven blocks.

In the first set, Radford stormed off to a commanding start, holding a ten point lead at 15-5. A kill from junior middle blocker Savannah Cantrell secured a 25-12 set win.

The preceding sets followed in the same manner.  The Highlanders took the second 25-14, but fell back and won a close third, 26-24 to finish the Tigers. RU racked up 40 kills to SSU’s 20 and hit a 12-2 edge in blocks.

For the second match-up of the night, the Highs faced Tulane, who stood 10-1 on the season prior to the tournament. RU started strong, taking the first set 25-22.

It seemed like the momentum would continue.

Radford led for most of the second set, but couldn’t close and lost it 25-17 when TU racked up 13 of the last 15 points. The Highs lost control again in the third and TU took the win in four.

Junior outside hitter Rachel Wiechecki recorded her 24th career double double after her 12 kills and 15 kills. Junior middle blocker Emma Deininger and freshman outside hitter Jordan Watson, who earned Big South Freshman of the Week, each charted nine kills in the game.

“We watched them on film and we thought we would be able to compete with them,” Head Women’s Volleyball Coach Marci Jenkins said. “I mean we had stretches where our service receive didn’t hold up long enough in order to compete and be able to run an offense.”

Back in action day two, the Highlanders notched another sweep against SSU.

Senior opposite side hitter Jesse Miedema nailed a season-high 12 kills. Her relentless offensive power led the team to a 25-5, 25-13, 25-12 win.

Hoping to regroup and get even with Tulane in game two, the Highlanders showed fight, but were ultimately unable to knock off the Green Wave.

“We got in certain rotations where we couldn’t service receive the balls and that’s why it came to a point where we couldn’t handle the ball,” Jenkins said.

Like the first match, the Highlanders took the first set 25-18. In the second set, RU was unable to regain the lead after a 6-4 edge and lost it 25-21.

Wiechecki ripped 13 kills and freshman setter Rachel Flores tossed out 30 assists.

Out of halftime, TU found its offensive groove as it hit .406, taking a 25-22 third-set win. Although the Highs contended to a 22-24 deficit, the Green Wave ended the threat with a kill.

Unable to ever take the lead, the Highs responded with a 5-1 surge to tie the set at 23, but fell 23-25.

With the 2-2 record on the weekend, RU now stands at 10-6 on the season.

On Friday, Sept. 27 the Highlanders will play Big South opponent, Liberty University. The league opener for both squads starts at 7 p.m. in the Dedmon Center.