The Atlantic 10 Volleyball Championship in Pittsburgh, PA featured another anticipated round of #1 VCU taking on #2 Dayton to crown the champion. The match took 5 sets in the A.J. Palumbo that witnessed the Rams win their first conference championship since 2005.
A Battle To Start A Championship
As the first set got underway, VCU and Dayton traded kills. Alica Kandler and Gina Tuzzolo put the Rams on the scoreboard while Dayton stayed close. More firepower came at the hands of Julia Adler and Vicky Giommarini as VCU started to get into an offensive groove.
Dayton stuck around with numerous kills to keep the set leveled at 12-12. Jasmin Sneed led a 4 point swing for the Black & Gold to regain the momentum and the lead. Tori Baldwin got hot on offense with a pair of kills to put VCU up 21-17.
The Flyers picked up the pieces and tied Set 1 at 23-23 with a 6 point run. The duo of Sneed and Tuzzolo collected a block to give VCU set point. Tuzzolo finished the job with a service ace to give the Rams the 25-23 win in Set 1.
VCU capitalized on errors by Dayton to go ahead in set 2. Giommarini scored another kill followed by a service ace by Kandler to make it 9-5 Rams. Dayton bounced back with a 4 point surge that was silenced by Giommarini keeping the set tied at 12-12.
Two scoring runs by the Flyers ignited Dayton on offense. Tuzzolo regrouped with back to back service aces for VCU. The Flyers continued soaring and Dayton eventually won the war in Set 2. Half-time ended with a 25-21 win for Dayton to keep the match level at 1 set apiece.
Black & Gold Runs The Scoreboard
Set 3 began just as the Rams hoped for with a 5-0 scoring drive. Giommarini led the charge followed by Tuzzolo capping off 3 straight kills out the gates. Dayton made an attacking error then was denied by Baldwin and Kandler at the net with a team block.
Lauren Bruns finally broke through with Dayton’s first kill of Set 3. VCU turned the page once again as Dayton made errors and Kandler capitalized to put the Rams up 12-2. Even with service aces up the Flyers’ sleeve, VCU’s offense continued to roll.
The trio of Giommarini, Kandler, and Sneed could not be stopped at the net while the kills kept piling up for the Rams. Tori Baldwin would score the final kill of Set 3 to give VCU match point in Set 4 with a 25-20 win.
We’re Going To A Fifth
Errors once again put Dayton in an early hole in Set 4. During a 4-0 run by the Rams, the Flyers made 3 errors to give VCU the points. Rebekah Strange kept the Rams ahead with another service ace for the Black & Gold.
Dayton would change the tide thanks to Kendyll Brown restarting Dayton’s offense. After Brown scored back to back kills, the Flyers regained the advantage and flew away from VCU. The Rams mounted a comeback late but the deficit was too great.
A 4-0 swing by the Flyers forced a 5th set in Pittsburgh. Dayton won Set 4 25-17.
Championship Set & Match!
Just like their previous battle, this one went to a 5th and deciding set. VCU struck first with Giommarini scoring the opening kill. Baldwin and Tuzzolo kept the momentum going with a team block to make it 2-0 Rams.
Dayton would answer scoring the next 2 points and the war would begin once again. Both teams traded point after point with the scoreboard going up to 10-10. Burns made a costly attacking error followed by another killer by Kandler putting VCU 3 points away from the title.
Set 5 turned for Dayton with a kill and the Flyers’ blocking Kandler twice to go up 13-12. Bridget Doherty made a handling error to give VCU hope at 13-13. Sneed came up huge on a solo block on Amber Erhanon to give the Rams’ championship point.
During that point, Tuzzolo set up Kandler perfectly as she scored the final point of the contest. The Rams rushed the court in celebration of their first Atlantic 10 Championship as the Rams won Set 5 15-13.
Vicky Giommarini led VCU with 16 kills and 15 digs. Alica Kandler had 14 kills and 13 digs against Dayton. Gina Tuzzolo collected 11 kills and Julia Adler was the fourth Ram in double-digits with 10 kills. Dajah Ard had 27 assists and Tyler Sroufe made 23. The Rams remain unbeaten with their winning streak improved to 27 straight victories.
With this victory, VCU won the Atlantic 10’s automatic bid into the NCAA Division 1 Women’s Volleyball Championships. The Rams will find out who they will face on Sunday, November 26th. The selection show will be on ESPNU at 9 PM.