UPLAND, Ind. — After a second set wake-up call, 19th-ranked University of Saint Francis got back to business winning the third and fourth set and its 13th consecutive match on Friday night at Taylor University.
USF rallied to win the opening set 29-27, the longest of the season for USF. TU secured a 25-19 decision in the second set. The Lady Cougars dominated the third set 25-14 and held off TU in the fourth set to win 25-21.
Cassidy Rammel led USF’s attack with 16 kills, one of three Lady Cougars to reach double-figure kills. Kendra Siefring added 11 kills and Megan Diagostino 10. Ava Kunkler added eight and Anne Clark seven in USF’s 56-kill attack.
Maria Pelak delivered 44 assists, her third consecutive 40-plus assists match and fourth in USF’s last five. It was her fifth 40-plus assists match this season. Valorie Flick was stellar defensively with 27 digs. Nikki Marshall was also a defensive wiz-kid with 14 and freshman Madison Candler finished with 13 in another superb defensive effort for USF. Marshall fired in five aces out of 10 for the Lady Cougars. Diagostino had four block assists, Rammel two.
It took 56 rallies 20 ties and six lead changes to decide the first set. Diagostino’s kill knotted the score at 27, then Candler lazered an ace for a 28-27 lead after TU was at match point at 25-24, 26-25 and 27-26. Flick set up Kunkler for the set-winning kill.
The Trojans controlled the second set opening up an 11-4 lead. USF got no closer than three twice at 19-16 and 20-17 in the final 10 points.
USF turned the tables on TU in the third set jumping out to a 5-1 lead capped by a Siefring-Kunkler block. A Rammel kill and Siefring ace opened a wider lead at seven, 11-4, and a Clark-Diagostino block expanded the lead to eight, 14-6. Pelak made it nine with a kill, 18-9, and USF secured a 2-1 lead outscoring TU 7-5 to finish the set.
The Lady Cougars, who improved to 5-0 since attaining their first ever NAIA Top 25 ranking on Sept. 2, bolted out to a 14-3 lead in the fourth set. Rammel-Siefring combined on a block to cap a 10-0 run for USF that took a 4-4 lead to 11 points. TU got no closer than three, 24-21 before a Rammel kill finished the set and match.