Championship Sunday arrived at the Siegel Center with the Atlantic 10 Volleyball Championship on the line. VCU had the home court advantage as the top seed and defending A-10 champion in a title rematch versus #2 Dayton. The 3rd chapter of Rams versus Flyers this season matched the hype and the emotions in 5 sets for the A-10 crown.
Elizabeth House began the match with a service ace for Dayton. House would follow that up with a service error to keep Set 1 tied at 1-1. Jasmin Sneed scored VCU’s first two points with a kill then a solo block putting the Rams in front. Dayton and VCU traded blow for blow with the point tally increasing.
Tori Baldwin and Gina Tuzzolo blocked Dayton’s momentum and the volleyball on a team block for VCU. Tuzzolo scored her first kill of the match from cross-court putting VCU up 9-7. Sneed kept firing and racking up kills with two more in the opening set.
No Flyers. NO!
Errors held Dayton back from a possible comeback in set 1. The Flyers were called for a double hit error on two consecutive occasions while trailing 16-14. Baldwin and Tuzzolo denied Dayton for a block then Vicky Giommarini slammed home the kill to put VCU up 20-17. A 5-0 scoring swing for the Black & Gold had the Rams and Siegel Center behind the defending A-10 Champs.
Dayton would burn a timeout only to be stopped at the net once again on a block from Sneed & Tuzzolo. Sneed followed that with a solo block of her own and Alyna Draper connecting on VCU’s first service ace. VCU collected 6 total blocks in the opening set to win it 25-18.
Dayton With A 2nd Wind
The second set did not start well for Dayton with two straight errors. An attacking error followed by a ball handling error had the Flyers in the hole out the gates. Tuzzolo and Sneed would capitalize with two VCU kills. Giommarini kept the hammer down on offense putting VCU up 7-2 and forcing Dayton to take a breather.
A response was delivered from the Flyers while trailing 4-8. Dayton unleashed a 9-0 scoring frenzy led by Brooke Wesbeld and Alli Papesh. Even after VCU called timeout, Kendyll Brown brought in a pair of Dayton kills. Sneed and Adler ended the Black & Gold drought with a team block at the 12-9 mark.
VCU had a late run of scoring from Giommarini and Tuzzolo joined by Paula Neciporuka. Dayton’s lead was too great for a comeback and the Flyers buried the Rams winning the last 5 points of Set 2. Dayton tied the match at 1-1 with a 25-15 victory in Set 2.
Champs Gunnin’ Again
Points were traded in the early stages of Set 3. Tuzzolo swung momentum VCU’s way with a kill & ace combo and a 7-5 lead. Jasmin Sneed became the second Ram in VCU school history to reach 500 career blocks. Dayton flipped the script with two blocks on Baldwin followed by the kill to bring the score within a point.
The Flyers would rally back in front until a slip-up by Sierra Pla brought Dayton back level with VCU at 15-15. The Rams got the hot hand with an 8-0 scoring blitz led by Gina Tuzzolo scoring three service aces including the game winner. With the 25-19 victory, VCU was one win away from the A-10 Volleyball Championship.
Dayton Forced Another
Set 4 started in VCU’s favors but quickly turned the opposite direction. Brooke Westbeld was killing it for Dayton as she racked up a triple-double performance. Points came in bunches for the Flyers with help from Lauren Bruns and Kendyll Brown scoring at will. VCU Head Coach Jodi Rogers called timeout with the Rams trailing 12-6.
Defense went in favor of the visitors with two straight blocks after the VCU timeout expired. Sneed gave the Rams hope with a much-needed kill but Dayton could not be stopped in Set 4. The Flyers did what they had to do to force a final set with a 25-16 Set 4 win.
Final Round For The Crown
Siegel Center rose the volume alongside the stakes in the final set to decide the champion of the Atlantic 10. Olivia Dubay got the Flyers started with the opening kill. Tuzzolo responded with a spike that rolled on top of the net and landed on Dayton’s side for the unexpected VCU point.
Giommarini and Sneed were still giving Dayton’s defense fits as their kill tallies continued racking up. VCU mustered a 3-0 scoring run before switching sides; Julia Adler laid down a kill that was followed by Baldwin getting another solo block. Adler and Baldwin made the score 8-5 Rams after blocking Alli Papesh at the net.
That Dig Tho & A Comeback
VCU’s lead increased to 10-7 after some heroic digging by Giommarini. The VCU junior reached with every inch she had on a one-arm dig to deny Dayton the point. Pla committed another Dayton attacking error and sent the Siegel Center in an uproar.
Dayton brought VCU back down to Earth winning the next 4 points to tie the Set at 10-10. Bridget Doherty collected two service aces in the clutch and VCU called timeout.
At 11-11, Bruns got another kill for Dayton. Dajah Ard was whistled for the ball handling error for VCU to put the Flyers up 2 points. The deficit became three when Dubay and Westbeld blocked Jasmin Sneed to give Dayton match point.
Tuzzolo would knock down another VCU kill after the set from Draper. One more rally was had at the Siegel Center with Brooke Westbeld scoring the championship kill for the Flyers. Dayton won Set 5 15-12 to win the 2018 Atlantic 10 Volleyball Championship 3-2 over VCU.
Final Stats & What’s Next
Vicky Giommarini earned a double-double of 14 kills and 10 digs for VCU. Gina Tuzzolo was the second Ram in double-digit kills with 11 kills, 6 digs, and 4 blocks. Paula Neciporuka finished the day with 9 kills and 8 digs. Jasmin Sneed mustered 9 blocks and 8 kills versus the Flyers.
Brooke Westbeld had a triple-double of 22 assists, 16 digs and 12 kills against VCU. Vicky Giommarini, Gina Tuzzolo, and Jasmin Sneed were named to the A-10 All-Tournament team for VCU.
The NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship bracket will be unveiled on Sunday, November 25th at 8:30 PM EST on ESPNU. Dayton received the A-10 auto-bid for the NCAA tournament while VCU Volleyball will be watching to see if their name is revealed somewhere on the bracket.