SLU Volleyball returned to Chaifetz this past weekend hosting Miami (Ohio), Youngstown State and Bradley in the annual Billiken Challenge.
Before opening tournament play, the Bills started the weekend dropping a five set thriller to Northern Iowa, 2-3 (31-29, 19-25, 31-33, 25-18, 14-16). The Billikens battled UNI the first set and a five point run late in the game secured a 31-29 victory for SLU. The Panthers responded in the second game, silencing the Bills with a 25-19 win. Out of the time out both teams were at it again. With the score tied seventeen times during game three it was anyone’s set to take. A late attack error shifted the momentum in favor of the Panthers and UNI closed out game three 33-31. SLU bounced back, leading the Panthers by an impressive 13-1 margin to start the set. The Billikens went on to win 25-18. The fifth set was nothing short of heartbreaking. After a 14-14 deadlock UNI broke loose to clinch the win at 16-14.
Statistically, SLU was led by freshmen Danielle Rygelski and Mallory Dillon on the offensive end. Both Rygelski and Dillon recorded 28 kills in the match. Rygelski hit a team-best .358 and added 13 digs to record a double-double. Dillon hit .217 with seven digs and five blocks. Libero Anna Church also notched 30 digs in the contest.
The Billikens continued play Friday evening opening the Billiken Challenge with another marathon match against Miami (Ohio) 2-3 (25-22, 21-25, 25-18, 19-25, 15-17). SLU began the match with a decisive 25-22 victory over the RedHawks in set one. The Bills again opened with a 6-3 lead in set two, however a 5-1 run for Miami put the RedHawks at 8-7. SLU made a late run to close the 22-14 gap but dropped the second set 25-21. An eight point run early in the third by Sophomore libero Anna Church led the Bills to a 25-18 win. The RedHawks responded with a 25-19 win of their own sending the match to a fifth game. SLU again came up short in a nail biting fifth set dropping the match 17-15.
The Challenge continued Saturday as SLU matched up against Youngstown State. After playing ten sets Friday night, SLU opened play with energy defeating the Penguins 25-23. However, Youngstown’s impressive defensive efforts proved to be too tough for the Bills. The Penguins closed out the match with scores of 25-20, and 25-21.
The Billikens capped off the weekend on a positive note with a 3-0 sweep of Bradley. The hot hitting Billikens recorded a .406 hitting percentage in the first set. Rygelski led the Billikens in the second set recording no errors on seven swings, and SLU went on to close out the third 25-23.
The defensive trio freshman Maryann Ejele (four blocks), junior Nicole Sniffen four blocks) and sophomore Megan Gilbert (five blocks) held the Braves at a .174 hitting efficiency on the match. Rygelski and Dillon were awarded all-tournament honors for their performance over the weekend.
The Billikens return to action next weekend, Sept. 20-21 in Fayetteville, Ark. in the Razorback Invitational. Saint Louis will join South Alabama (Sept. 20 at 4:30 p.m.), Kansas State (Sept. 21 at 1 p.m.) and Arkansas (Sept. 21 at 7 p.m.) in a talented field.