VERMILLION -- Summit League Tournament jitters hit Oral Roberts University volleyball in the first set of their opening round match with Kansas City, but the Golden Eagles recovered for a 3-1 victory over the Roos Thursday evening in Vermillion.
“I think that first one, we were really flustered,” junior Sakira LaCour said. “We weren’t really set in ourselves, pre-match jitters and all that kind of carried into it. We came out of that one, looked at the score and we’re like, that was not us.”
Oral Roberts won 18-25, 25-18, 25-18 and 25-14. After hitting .000 in the first set, the Golden Eagles hit over .200 in the next three sets to take the match.
Kansas City opened the match by leading the opening set wire-to-wire in a 25-18 first set victory. Melanie Brecka tallied seven first set kills for the Roos.
Knowing they needed to slow Brecka down, the Golden Eagles stuck to their game plan, and Brecka was held to five kills or less in each set after the first.
“We knew that we had to stop number eight, Brecka,” ORU head coach Frank Craig III said. “She’s a phenomenal player and that’s one of the biggest pieces to their offense. We were able to slow that down.”
Oral Roberts used a balanced diet of attackers to keep Kansas City guessing. The Golden Eagles never trailed in the second and fourth sets, and trailed at the start of the third set 2-0 before taking the lead and holding it for the remainder of the set.
“That’s been a big focus since the beginning of our season,” LaCour said. “We really wanted to go into it having a really balanced offense. We talk about it before every game, every practice. A really big piece of that is making sure where we pass that first ball, taking care of serve-receive and then trying to get a kill out of that.”
LaCour tallied 11 kills and Trinity Freeman 10 for the Golden Eagles. Kala Dunford and Jaxie Wakley added eight kills each. Aixa Vigil picked up seven kills to go with 10 digs. Bryanne Soares tallied 34 assists and Sarah Thiessen 13 digs.
“We have all of these cultural pieces to us, that is how we maintain our energy,” Craig said. “That’s how we maintain our composure. We talk about resiliency all the time, so many of these things make us focus back into what we need to do.”
Brecka finished with a game high 17 kills and 13 digs for the Roos. De’Janae Arnold contributed nine kills. Maddie Renn tallied 13 digs and Alli Schomers 10. Schomers added 39 assists for the Roos.
Oral Roberts is in its second season under Craig and have made the semifinals after a rough first year.
I’m super thankful for the administration believing in me,” Craig said. “That first season we had, it was tough, but that’s where we really set in our culture. And then things came to fruition this season.”
Now, the Golden Eagles face the top-seeded Omaha Mavericks in the semifinals at 4:30 p.m. Friday (today).
“Being balanced is a part of our offense, that’s just the name of the game and that’s how we train,” Craig said. “I think going to Omaha, Sadie Limback is one of the best players, player of the year for our conference, so it’s going to be one of those important things, stopping her.”
The match is the first of two semifinals Friday night inside the Sanford Coyote Sports Center with the winner advancing to the Summit League Championship match Saturday at 2 p.m.
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