TAMPA, Fla., Sept, 15, 2012 – Redshirt senior outside hitter Natalie Abel (Washington, Pa./Trinity) collected a career-high 24 kills and junior libero Katie Daorai (Tampa, Fla./Plant) tied her career-high with 31 digs to lead the James Madison volleyball team to a 3-1 win over FIU in the final game of the USF Volleyball Invitational on Saturday evening.
JMU won by set scores of 25-19, 25-16, 17-25, 25-18 to finish the tournament with a 2-1 record. The Dukes finished off tournament play with wins in six of their last seven games to improve to 7-6 on the season. The Panthers dropped to 3-8 on the year.
Abel led all players with 24 kills on .305 hitting. She finished the day with a double-double, adding 13 digs. Her previous career-high in kills was 23 on Oct. 16, 2010 against William & Mary. Daorai had a match-high 31 digs, tying her previous career-best set as a freshman on Oct. 23, 2010 against George Mason. The third-year Duke added two aces and two assists. She also set a new career-high for service aces in a season with 15.
Three other players finished with between seven and 11 kills for Madison led by freshman outside hitter Meghan Niski (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles East) with 11. She added nine digs and two service aces while junior middle blocker Lizzy Briones (Siloam Springs, Ark./Siloam Springs) contributed eight kills on .300 hitting. She set a new career-high with four service aces, adding four digs and two blocks. Senior outside hitter Danielle Erb (Tampa, Fla./Plant) finished with seven kills and 12 digs. Senior setter Megan Wiechmann (Sunland, Calif./Village Christian) recorded her fourth double-double of the season, handing out 46 assists and picking up 14 digs.
Three different players finished with double figures in kills to pace the FIU offense. Outside hitter Marija Prsa finished with 19 kills against just one error on 58 attempts for a .310 attack percentage. She added 18 digs for the double-double. Opposite hitter Lucia Castro had 16 kills and six digs while middle blocker Kimberly Smith contributed 10 kills on .250 hitting. Setter Ashlee Hodgskin earned a double-double with 42 assists and 16 digs. Libero Ryanne Milligan picked up a team-high 22 digs and added five assists.
JMU outhit FIU .220 to .200 and led in aces, 9-2. The Panthers recorded six blocks to three for the Dukes while Madison led in digs 92-90.
The match started out tight with neither team leading by more than three through the first 21 points. With the Dukes holding an 11-10 advantage, they rattled off a 5-1 run to open up a 16-11 lead and force the Panthers to call timeout. FIU cut the deficit down to three at 21-18, but kills by freshmen MacKenzie Kleespies (Lincoln University, Pa./Avon Grove) and Sarah Delaney (Herndon, Va./South Lakes) helped fuel a 4-1 Madison run to close out the set. Abel powered the offense in the set, collecting eight kills on .312 hitting while Daorai recorded 11 digs.
The Dukes won the first three points to open up set two and never looked back, leading the entire way. They used three separate three-point runs to extend the advantage to 15-7 and force a Panther timeout. FIU responded with a 3-0 run out of the timeout, but never got closer than four points the rest of the way before losing 25-16. Erb hit .500 in the set, finishing with four kills on eight attempts.
FIU came out firing out of intermission, building a 6-2 lead and forcing JMU head coach Lauren Steinbrecher to use a timeout. Madison whittled the lead down to one at 7-6, but lost 12 of the next 18 points to fall behind for good.
Set four was tight early, featuring three tied scores and one lead change. The Dukes took control of the set with a 6-0 run to open up a 12-5 advantage. Abel kept the Panthers at bay the rest of the way, recording seven kills on .316 hitting and Niski added six kills in 12 attempts to finish off the win.
JMU returns to the court next Saturday, Sept. 22 as it opens up CAA play at home against Georgia State.
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