NORTH CANTON, Ohio - In front of a loud and raucous home crowd, the Walsh Cavaliers volleyball team fought off a fierce and hungry Ohio Dominican Panthers team on Friday (Sept. 27) in the home and conference opener.
Walsh held off a late charge by the Panthers, winning 3-2 (25-13, 25-23, 23-25, 25-27, 15-7) at the Cecchini Center.
Natalie Brutscher had two aces as Walsh led 5-1 in the early going of the match. The Panthers closed the gap to three before some Panthers errors forced a timeout, trailing 11-5. Ohio Dominican scored four of the first five points after the timeout, closing the gap to 12-9. Alexis Gilland assisted on a block and added a kill as the Walsh lead grew to seven. Back-to-back kills from Gilland and Justine Coffman forced a second timeout with a 20-12 lead. Sydnee Marks served a pair of aces and a pair of kills from Olivia Maczuzak iced a 25-13 first set win for the Cavaliers. Maczuzak had five kills in the set on eight attempts. Samanatha Wentz had four digs in the opening set as the libero.
The teams tied three times in the first six points before a huge Walsh 7-2 run created some distance. Coffman and Lauren Loucks each had two kills along with a pair of Panthers errors, created a 10-5 lead. Walsh extended the lead to seven prior to a Panthers timeout. The Panthers pulled within four three times in the set, getting as close as Walsh was looking for set point. Ohio Dominican charged with three straight points, as head coach Jayme Plummer called a timeout to regroup the team. Coffman had an emphatic block, closing the set 25-23 in favor of the Cavaliers. Maczuzak led the team with four digs on defense in the second set.
After the teams tied twice, six different players had points on a 12-6 Walsh run as the lead expanded to 12-6. The teams exchanged points as Walsh held a 16-11 lead after a service error. Ohio Dominican took back the lead with a 12-2 run as Walsh called both timeouts. Walsh wasn't done yet as they rebounded with five of the next six points as Gilland had two kills and Amber King had a kill and a combined block. Ohio Dominican called a timeout with a 24-23 lead and ended up taking the third set 25-23. Gilland made a team-high five kills in set three while Maczuzak had seven digs on defense.
Walsh played catchup in set four as Ohio Dominican led 6-2 after eight points. Coffman had two kills on a 4-1 Walsh run, slimming the margin to 7-6. The Panthers regained a three point lead before a 6-3 Walsh rally forced a 13-13 tie. The match tied 11 times after that with neither team leading by more than one point. After Maczuzak and Coffman knotted the score at 24, the teams tied one more before the set went to the Panthers in extra points, 27-25. Maczuzak led the way with six kills and Wentz supported the defense with five digs.
A quick start lifted the Cavaliers to a 7-2 lead before a ODU timeout. King and Maczuzak each had a kill and combined on a block. Gilland served an ace and followed with a kill on the early run. The Panthers pulled within seven but the Cavaliers put the exclamation point on the match with back-to-back kills by Gilland and King. King had three kills in the final set.
Maczuzak finished with her first career double-double, a career-high 15 kills and tied a career-high in digs with 12. Gilland added 13 kills and a team-high hitting percentage of .545. King gave the Cavaliers 12 kills and 2.5 blocks. Olivia Kearns had 43 assists in the match. Wentz led the squad with 14 digs and Brutscher added 12 digs and tied for most in the G-MAC this season with five aces in a five-set match. Coffman made three solo blocks and assisted on six other blocks, finishing with six total blocks.
The Cavaliers will rest up as they will travel South next week for matchups with the Trojans of Trevecca Nazarene and the Kentucky Wesleyan Panthers. The Trojans are up first on Friday (Oct. 4) at 7:00 PM.