Lady Hens survive five-set battle to outlast Dukes
The Delaware volleyball team defeated James Madison University, 3-2 in a close head-to-head five-set Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) battle on Sunday afternoon at the Bob Carpenter Center.
Although the Lady Hens did not make it into the CAA tournament last year, they have been working hard to make changes in attempts to compete in this year’s upcoming tournament. As far as conference play is concerned, UD now has a record of 3-3, bumping JMU down to their conference record of 2-4.
Head Coach Bonnie Kenny said she was not so relaxed watching the game from the sidelines.
“I felt like I was in a dentist chair all afternoon,” she said.
After this win, Delaware has the possibility of getting into the CAA tournament this year. Although they aren’t qualified right now, Kenny said she recognizes that her team is one step closer to achieving the goal.
Set one was extremely back and forth, for the score remained close with the Lady Hens trailing the Dukes for the duration of the game. James Madison tried to pick apart Delaware’s defense and swung aggressively the entire match. The defense scrambled to dig each ball they could, led by sophomore libero Taylor Hollingsworth, among other defensive specialists.
Midway through the first set, the Dukes led by four points, 12-8. The Lady Hens fought back however, pulling the gap back to one point, making the score 15-14. Although James Madison pulled ahead again––this time with a five-point lead toward the end of the set––the Delaware offense attacked the opposing setter, pushing them to an eventual victory of 25-23 for the first set.
In the second set the Lady Hens had to work through hitting errors and defensive adjustments to push forward. Despite the slow start, Delaware hung in. Hollingsworth made a wonderful save as she sprinted from the end line all the way up to right front in order to set sophomore Alexa Swann on the right side. Hollingsworth set Swann on the right side, who tipped the ball just over the block for a kill. The Dukes successfully attacked the right side of the Lady Hens’ defense, forcing sophomore setter Julia Anderson to play the first ball. By attacking the setter, the Dukes challenged Delaware to play out of system. The second set ended with an arguable call, deeming James Madison the the victors.
Post half-time break, Delaware came out strong in the third set of the match. The Lady Hens stepped up their blocking game, pushing them to a 5-0 lead over the Dukes. James Madison tried desperately closing the point differential as Delaware tried to maintain control of the game.
After a kill by outside hitter Katie Hillman and a block by Swann and Anderson, Delaware stayed ahead, 20-17, in the third set. Two Delaware kills in a row closed out the set for the Lady Hens, giving them a score of 25-22.
In the fourth set, the defense had to adjust quickly to James Madison’s attack. Swann attacked the Dukes’ defense from both the middle and right side, giving her 16 kills for the game. Despite the combined effort of Lady Hen offensive weapons Chandler Bryant, Katie Hillman and Autumn Jenkins in addition to Swann’s efforts, the Lady Hens lost the fourth set, 25-18.
In the 15-point fifth set, Delaware came out fighting, as Hillman was serving. Despite an aggressive tip from the Dukes’ Meghan Niski, Chandler Bryant was able to get the kill. Jenkins’ topspin serve was untouchable, as she aced JMU twice consecutively. The match ended with a deep line swing by Hillman, holding the final score at 15-10.
Swann said the defense improved towards the close of the match.
“The defense came together at the end, making it easy for the offense to get kills,” Swann said. “With perfect passes, the sets are on target, making the hitters job an easy one to accomplish.”
Overall, Kenny said she was pleased to see the Delaware offense step up and show what it is capable of.
“We were the aggressor in the fifth game, which we haven’t been,” she said.