SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – Ohio Dominican's volleyball team continued its hot start to the season Saturday afternoon at Bud Cooper Gymnasium as the Panthers defeated Lake Superior State (Mich.) 3-1 (25-16, 23-25, 25-18, 26-24) for their first GLIAC victory of the year.
The Panthers (5-1, 1-1 GLIAC), ignited by a Meredith Shifley (Jr./Galion, OH) ace, jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead in the first set and never looked back. The Lakers closed to within two points on three occasions, the last at 11-9, but three kills and two service aces by Kristy Birkemeier (Jr./Columbus Grove, OH) allowed ODU to rattle of nine of the next 10 points and cruise to the 25-16 set win.
After LSSU claimed a close second set that featured 12 ties and a pair of lead changes, the Panthers responded with another dominating performance in the third. The Lakers kept the deficit around three points throughout much of the set and pulled within a point at 14-13. However, ODU, aided by five LSSU service errors and kills from Tara Winner (So./Versailles, OH), two from Caitlin Kusan (Fr./Westerville, OH) and Rachel Billing (Sr./Anna, OH), was able to gradually pull away to take a 2-1 set advantage.
In the third set, ODU's defense limited the Lakers to an .033 attack percentage and created some separation, taking an 18-14 lead after kills by Winner and Kusan as well as a block from that combination. The Lakers would not draw closer than three points for the rest of the set.
The fourth set contained six ties and four lead changes, but again ODU prevailed after failing to hold a 23-19 lead. LSSU rallied to tie the score at 24, but a Birkemeier kill and a Laker attack error allowed the Panthers to take the set and the match.
Birkemeier led ODU with a game-high 15 kills and Billing finished with 10 for her fourth double-digit kill performance in the last five contests. Winner set a season high with nine kills on 14 attempts for an impressive .571 attack percentage, while Kusan added eight.
Stacy Rogg led the Panther defense with 24 digs, Billing chipped in with 14 and Birkemeier had 10, while Shifley paced the offense with 29 assists.
The Panthers step out of conference play next Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. as Urbana visits Alumni Hall for ODU's home opener.
Contact: Scott Miles