RIO GRANDE, Ohio — In a season where success has had the ups and downs of an amusement park roller coaster, perhaps the University of Rio Grande volleyball team found a signature win on Thursday night.
The RedStorm rallied from two sets down to defeat visiting Mount Vernon Nazarene University by scores of 22-25, 26-28, 26-24, 25-17, 15-12 at the Newt Oliver Arena.
Rio Grande pushed its record back over the .500 mark, improving to 11-10 with the victory.
The Cougars, who received votes in the latest NAIA Coaches’ Top 25, lost for just the third time in 24 outings.
“Tonight’s victory was all about the girls refusing to lose on their court,” said Rio Grande head coach Billina Donaldson.
After dropping a pair of hard-fought sets to begin the match, Rio appeared well on its way to easy win in set three by taking a 24-14 lead, but the Cougars reeled off 10 straight winners to knot the score.
The RedStorm rebounded to score each of the next two points and send the match to a fourth set, but the near collapse brought with it a one-sided conversation – with Donaldson doing all of the talking – prior to the start of set four.
“We knew if we could limit our errors, we could win. It just took us a little while – and a little bit of a butt-ripping – to get going,” Donaldson said. “The end result was something we were happy with.”
Rio spotted the Cougars the first point in the fourth set, but went on to score the next five winners and never trailed again.
The fifth and deciding stanza was a back-and-forth affair until a kill by freshman Patricia Dennis (Celina, OH) snapped a 9-9 deadlock and gave the RedStorm the lead for good.
MVNU closed within one point three more times, but an attack error by the Cougars and kills by Rio freshman Marley Hanzel (Wheelersburg, OH) and junior Aleah Pelphrey (Piketon, OH) pushed the lead back to two on each occasion.
An attack error by the Cougars’ Kristen Osborn clinched the victory.
Dennis had a career-high 16 kills and Pelphrey added 14 of her own to lead the winning effort for Rio, while Hanzel had 13 kills and senior Kayla Briley (Marion, OH) finished with 12 kills, 52 assists and six blocks.
Senior Chandler Brown (Stockdale, OH) had a match-best 35 digs, while Pelphrey and freshman Katie Hemsley (Jackson, OH) tallied 22 and 12 digs, respectively.
Senior Autumn Snider (Marion, OH) finished with a match-high seven blocks and two service aces for the RedStorm, while freshman Rachael Gilkey (Nelsonville, OH) also had five blocks.
Rio had a .235 attack percentage for the match and committed just four attack errors in 71 attacks over the final two sets.
Annelise Rohrer had 20 kills and 27 digs for MVNU, while Osborn finished with 15 kills and 26 digs.
Bridget Troyer added 25 assists and 0 digs in a losing cause for the Cougars, while Emily Rahe had 20 assists and Ashley Gingerich tallied 32 digs.
Rio Grande returns to action on Saturday, hosting a River States Conference Crossover event.
The RedStorm will play Carlow University at 11 a.m. and Point Park at 2 p.m. in the Newt Oliver Arena, while West Virginia University Tech will play Point Park at 11 a.m. and Carlow at 2 p.m. in the Lyne Center’s lower gymnasium.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.