FULLERTON, Calif. — NAIA No. 30 University of Saint Francis didn’t waste any time producing a Top 25 upset blitzing preseason No. 13 Rocky Mountain College 3-0 in the Lady Cougars season opening match on Wednesday.
The Lady Cougars prevailed 25-17, 25-21 and 29-27 with junior Makayla Hissong leading the attack with 13 kills while junior Kendra Siefring added 11. USF delievered a 52-31 advantage on attack against RMC at Darling Pavilion on the Hope International University campus in the Summer Slam.
USF played Hope International University in the nightcap and was on the opposite end suffering a 3-1 loss to the tournament hosts. USF setter Maria Pelakappeared to hit her head on the floor very early in the first set and did not return to action. HIU won 25-22, lost 22-25, won 25-18 and 26-24.
Hissong registered a career high with her first double figures kill match of her career. Megan Diagostino finished with nine kills while Anne Clark and Ava Kunklerdelivered seven apiece for USF. Nikki Marshall led the USF defensive effort with a career best 22 digs followed by Clark with 10 and freshman Maile Steckelbergwith seven. Maria Pelak registered 45 assists.
USF nailed down the three-set sweep on back-to-back kills by Diagostino and Katarina DiBiasio for points 28 and 29. The third set featured 12 ties, seven times at 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 and 27. USF led by as many as five at 8-3 early before RMC produced the first deadlock since 1-1 at 12. Siefring hammered seven hills in the third set.
In the first set, the Lady Cougars broke away from a tie at 3 outscoring RMC 10-3 for a 13-6 lead. A Hissong kill opened up USF’s first 10-point lead at 21-11 and a Siefring kill made it 22-11 leaving no doubt about the final outcome. There were eight ties in the first 22 points of the second set before USF took charge on a Clark kill for a 12-11 lead. USF never trailed or was tied again in the second set opening up the largest spread to that point, 20-16, on a Diagostino slam. RMC close the gap to two, 20-18, but USF won four of the next five points and DiBiasio finished the win with a kill on a Pelak set.
HIU improved to 2-0 holding off the Lady Cougars, who put up a valiant battle despite the loss of Pelak.
“When you lose your All-American setter, things don’t run as smooth as they should,” USF Scott Haddix observed. “Anne and Madison (Candler) did a nice job as setters. We just couldn’t find a good rhythm long enough to pull out the win. We are super proud of the effort!” Haddix asserted.
Siefring led the USF Match 2 attack with 11 kills and Clark added 10 kills along with 15 assists. Candler delivered a career-high 27 assists. Hissong added nine kills. Marshall finished with 17 digs, Steckelberg 11, Clark and Hissong nine apiece.
The Lady Cougars return to action on Day 2 of the Summer Slam at 1 p.m. against 23rd-ranked Embry-Riddle (AZ) and finish their four-match California trip against No. 23 Westmont College (CA) at 7 p.m.