Volleyball: Rygelski runs the show

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Senior outside hitter Danielle Rygelski looks to be capping off her outstanding collegiate career by reaching breathtaking heights for the Saint Louis Billikens. She made it to multiple milestones against La Salle and Duquesne on the road in Pennsylvania.

SLU’s first match came against La Salle, and the Billikens swept the Explorers in three sets. The Explorers struggled to keep each set close, and the Billikens won in a landslide each time.

Saint Louis took the first set by a comfortable score of 25-18. The second set proved no different, with the Billikens winning 25-16. After the break, Saint Louis continued to batter the Explorers, winning the third set by a score of 25-15, giving the Billikens the match.

Rygelski had the most kills on the Billikens, recording 14, while also posting an efficient .321 attack percentage. Meanwhile, junior middle blocker Lauren Leverenz also had a strong showing, finishing with seven kills on a .357 attacking percentage. Senior middle blocker Taylor Paulson, however, had the highest attack percentage on the team. She posted an even .500 attack percentage, which netted her a total of five kills.

Overall, Saint Louis was a much stronger team than La Salle, and the difference showed both on the scoreboard, with the three-set sweep, and the stats sheet. SLU had a much higher attack percentage than La Salle did, as they posted a .296 attack percentage and La Salle only managed a .058 attack percentage.

SLU’s defense was also highlighted in the win. The Billikens outblocked La Salle 12.5 blocks to only two. The individual Billiken with the most blocks in the match was sophomore outside hitter Monica Loftus, who recorded a total of six blocks.

SLU also had some individuals that served well. Both Rygelski and junior libero Mackenzie Long had three aces apiece for the Billikens.

Next up for the Billikens was a trip from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh in order to take on the Duquesne Dukes. In the reverse matchup that took place earlier in the season at Chaifetz Pavilion, the Dukes took a set off of the Billikens, so SLU had to be careful playing the Dukes on their home court. As it turned out, it took SLU a full five sets to dispatch a Duquesne team that battled SLU until the end.

Duquesne took the first set 25-22 to put a dent in SLU’s hopes to win the match. The Duquesne win came despite four kills and four blocks from junior outside hitter Nenye Okoro. However, a strong showing from Rygelski in the second set, in which she recorded 9 kills, led SLU to a narrow 25-23 win. After the break, Duquesne responded well despite six kills from Rygelski and won the set 25-21.

With their backs against the wall in the fourth set, SLU managed to turn the match around. The Billikens won another close set by a score of 25-22. Rygelski added three aces to six kills in the fourth set to lead Saint Louis to tying up the match at two sets apiece.

The Billikens then dominated the Dukes in the deciding fifth set, winning the set by a score of 15-8. Saint Louis hit .391 as a team, but the hero was once again Rygelski, who aced the Dukes several times to win the match for the Billikens.

Overall, Rygelski had 31 kills, her third match this season with more than 30 kills. Her seven aces in the match also matched the third-highest ace total in SLU history, the most in the rally-scoring era. Previously, the last Billiken to have 7 aces was Sutton Lasater versus DePaul on Oct. 29, 2004.

SLU also had 18 team blocks, which is the most since a 2011 match against Fordham. Paulson had a season-high nine blocks.

Next up for the Billikens will be a pair of home matches next weekend against VCU on Friday, Nov. 11 and Davidson on Nov. 13. The Davidson match will be when the team celebrates senior day.