Volleyball: Blue Raiders split first two games of Robert Morris Invitational

Photo by Devin P. Grimes / MTSU Sidelines

The Middle Tennessee Blue Raider volleyball team traveled to Moon, Pennsylvania, on Friday for three games in the Robert Morris Invitational. In a first-day split, the Blue Raiders took down Robert Morris in a five-set thriller in the first game, but fell to Rutgers in four sets on the back end of the doubleheader.

MT took the first two sets by tallies of 25-22 and 25-23 before Robert Morris sparked a furious comeback in the next two sets, led by 6-foot-4 freshman middle blocker Emma Granger with 13 kills. With two 25-20 wins, RMU pushed the match to a decisive fifth set.

With everything evened up after four, the Blue Raiders won the set that mattered most by a score of 15-7, their first five-set match of the season. Outside hitter Makila York set a new career-high in kills as she led the team with 18 and finished with a hitting percentage of .593, also a team-high.

Her performance did not go unnoticed by her head coach.

“Makila was lights out tonight,” Coach Crawford stated after the game as he offered high praise for the junior from Trinidad and Tobago.

“I looked at this as an opportunity,”  York said after her performance. “I’ve had confidence in myself, and I knew that we as a team could dominate.”

York was not the only breakout player of the doubleheader as Dora Peonia continued her stellar month with her first double-double of the season, tallying 13 kills and 13 digs.

Coach Crawford was glad to not only steal a win on someone else’s home court, but also to do it in a five-set game for the first time this season.

“We haven’t seen a five-set game this year so to be able to go out on somebody’s home court and get them in five is a step in our process,” Crawford said.

In the second game of the day, the Blue Raiders got off to another hot start as they stole the first set against the Rutgers Scarlett Knights by a score of 25-21. Rutgers fought back to win the next three sets by scores of 26-24, 25-14 and 25-18. The loss went on to snap the Blue Raiders season-high four-game winning streak.

Rutgers benefited from two players leading the team with 11 kills: Yana Kamshilina and Kamila Cieslik. For the Blue Raiders, they were led by Makila York for the second straight game as she recorded a game-high 15 kills. Dora Peonia and Regan Coughlin also had solid showings as they both recorded ten kills each.

One notable takeaway from the Rutgers game was the lack of time in between games. The game against Robert Morris started at 1:30 p.m. and ended only 30 minutes before the game against Rutgers.

“We had a quick turnaround. We had 30 minutes of rest,” Crawford said. “That’s just absolutely ridiculous, and it affected us in a negative way.”

Crawford went on to mention the lack of rest resulted in his team becoming fatigued toward the end of the Rutgers game, especially in the final sets. Even with the lack of rest, he knew the effort was lacking, too.

“We quit,” Crawford said of the team’s effort. “We quit for a different reason than we did the first part of the year. In the first part of the year, we quit because we were afraid to go hard, afraid to take a risk and to take a gamble, and this time, we quit because of fatigue and both are unacceptable.”.

The Blue Raiders will face another quick turnaround as they conclude the Robert Morris Invitational with an early 9 a.m. start against Ivy League opponent Penn (3-3). After the early game on Saturday, MT will start their most important part of the schedule as conference play kicks off Sept. 22 against UAB.

Follow MTSU Sports Reporter Elijah Campbell on Twitter at @E_Campbell3

To contact Sports Editor Rusty Ellis, email sports@mtsusidelines.com.

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