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DU rallies to win five-set thriller, earns 10th-straight victory

Lucy Anderson  |  Photo by Jace Delgado
Lucy Anderson | Photo by Jace Delgado

DELAWARE, Ohio -- The Big Red volleyball team rallied from multiple fifth-set deficits to claim a 3-2 (25-27, 28-26, 19-25, 25-23, 15-13) victory over Ohio Wesleyan on Tuesday night. The win extended Denison's current streak to 10 games, the longest since 1993 when DU won 11-straight matches and went 31-10.

After posting three-straight sweeps to open North Coast Athletic Conference play, Denison found themselves in an unfamiliar position. The Big Red were endanger of losing their first conference match of the season as they trailed Ohio Wesleyan 2-1 heading into the fourth set. DU broke a 10-10 tie with a 9-4 burst to take a five-point advantage. The run was highlighted by a pair of kills and an ace from reigning NCAC Player of the Week, Emma Woerner. Payton McElfresh and Lucy Anderson also added finishers, while senior Alex Tubbs completed the run with a solo block.

The Bishops battled back with a 7-1 run that resulted in a 21-20 edge. Now deadlocked at 23-all, Anderson put the Big Red one-point away from a win with her fifth kill of the set. The visitors pushed the match to a fifth-and-decisive set thanks to a double block by McElfresh and Anderson.

Denison opened the final set with a McElfresh finisher, but a 4-0 burst gave OWU the advantage. The Big Red answered that run with a 7-1 outburst that turned a three-point deficit into a three-point lead as the two squads switch sides of the court. The Bishops engineered an 8-2 surge that put them just two points away from handing Denison their first league loss. Trailing 13-10, Ohio Wesleyan's Eliza Richardson committed an attacking error that closed the margin to two and put Denison libero Jenna Corrao on the service line.

Following Woerner's third kill of the set, the Bishops called their final timeout of the match. Ohio Wesleyan committed another hitting miscue out of the stoppage, tying things up at 13-13. The Big Red regained the lead and set up match point when Sophie Tight found Sidney Gossard for her eighth kill of the match. DU secured their fourth NCAC win of the year when the line judge ruled that Richardson's attack struck the antenna.

The first two sets of the match both needed more than 25 points to claim victory. After dropping the opener 27-25, Denison rattled off four of the final five points, including three straight, in a 28-26 second-set win. Ohio Wesleyan took a 2-1 match lead after engineering an 8-0 set-ending run in the third.

Anderson paced the Big Red offense with 24.5 points behind 18 kills and four aces (both team highs). The first-year middle hitter also racked up four total blocks (1 solo, 3 assists). Woerner finished the night with 12 kills, while McElfresh chipped in nine finishers. Tight dished out 45 helpers and served up two aces. Defensively, six different players posted double-digit digs. Corrao paced the defense with 28 digs, followed by McElfresh (20), Woerner (18), Carly Tenaglia (17), Tight (13) and Gossard (10). Gossard also registered two block assists, while Tubbs had three blocks (2 solo, 1 assist).

Jordan Brandt and Amelia Richardson co-led OWU with 21 kills each, while Molly Jewett handed out 62 assists and served up three aces. Meghan Schwallie logged 36 digs on the night, while Kenzee Martin and Erin Bitzer had six and five blocks, respectively.

The Big Red (13-5, 4-0 NCAC) will look for their 11th-consecutive victory on Saturday (Oct. 12) when they travel to the College of Wooster for an 11:30 a.m. match.