FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The Purdue Fort Wayne women’s volleyball concluded its opening tournament of the 2021 season, the Purdue Fort Wayne Invitational presented by Sonesta Select, with a pair of losses to Evansville and Kent State. Evansville won the tournament, with Purple Ace Alondra Vazquez being selected as the tournament MVP.
Purdue Fort Wayne Invitational All-Tournament Team
Alondra Vazquez, Evansville – MVP
Taya Haffner, Evansville
Melanie Feliciano, Evansville
Alex Haffner, Kent State
Morgan Copley, Kent State
Julia Treichel, SIUE
Rachael Crucis, Purdue Fort Wayne
Game 1 – Evansville 3, Purdue Fort Wayne 0 (25-23, 25-23, 27-23)
Katie Crowe led the Mastodons for the second match in a row, finishing the morning meeting with 12 kills and 11 digs. This was her second-consecutive double-double. In the opening set, Evansville went on a 7-1 run before Purdue Fort Wayne countered with a 6-2 run of their own. Viviana Lefherz had a kill and an ace in the stretch and Molly Mirabelli capped it off with a kill. Despite a late 4-1 push from the ‘Dons that included an ace from Madison Gates, Evansville got a kill from MVP Vazquez to close the frame. The ‘Dons hit .353, but were out-hit due to Evansville’s scorching .441 clip.
Lefherz blocked a ball on her own in the second set to push the Mastodons out to an early 7-5 lead, but UE rattled off five in a row with an ace and three consecutive blocks. After trading mini-runs for a while, the visitors held a 22-17 advantage. Purdue Fort Wayne went on a 6-1 push to tie the score at 23 with kills from Maggie Castleman and Lefherz, but the Purple Aces took the last two points of the set. The ‘Dons held Evansville to .122 hitting, the Purple Aces’ lowest of the morning.
The last set of the match was the closest, with 15 ties and six lead changes throughout. For the Mastodons, the frame was highlighted by a 5-1 push that saw a pair of kills from Castleman and one from Crowe and Sidney Schiller. The ‘Dons and Purple Aces traded points late, setting up the Mastodons for a set point opportunity at 24-23 and 25-24. Evansville scored three points in a row down the stretch, however, taking the match.
Crowe’s 12 kills was a team-high, while Schiller’s 11 were a close second. Gates picked up a double-double with 22 assists and 14 digs, both team-highs. Giulia Cardona led Evansville with 20 kills.
Evansville finished the weekend at 3-0.
Game 2 – Kent State 3, Purdue Fort Wayne 2 (22-25, 25-22, 25-21, 20-25, 18-16)
In the nightcap, Purdue Fort Wayne dropped a heartbreaker to Kent State in a five-set marathon match that clocked in at two hours and 26 minutes.
The Mastodons jumped out to a one-set advantage after taking the final four points of the opening set. Crowe got a kill, then the ‘Dons forced two attack errors, and Ramei Jackson got a kill to finish off the frame. The ‘Dons hit .303 with just three errors.
The second set seesawed toward Kent State, with a 15-10 edge toward the visitors early on. The Mastodons cut the deficit to two late in the set when Mirabelli and Crowe had back-to-back kills, but the Golden Flashes had built a comfortable enough lead to even the match. Kent State led wire-to-wire in the third set, with the Golden Flashes’ lead ballooning to 18-9. The ‘Dons went on a 7-2 push that was capped by a Lefherz kill, but this only got the set to 24-21 in favor of Kent State.
Purdue Fort Wayne never trailed in the fourth set, using a 7-2 early advantage after a kill from Gates. Kent State tied it at 7-all, but the ‘Dons thundered out to a 17-12 lead after an ace from Crucis and a kill from Crowe. The ‘Dons took the last four points of the set with an ace from Gates and kills from Schiller and Jackson to extend the match to the deciding fifth.
The final set of the night was as closely contested as any in the entire tournament. There were 14 ties and five lead changes in the extended fifth set. The ‘Dons got up 5-2 after a block from Crowe and Jackson and a kill from the sophomore middle blocker. The two squads then traded points and mini-runs to reach a 16-16 stymie. Crowe had two kills and Schiller had one to hold off three match points for the Golden Flashes, but Kent State ultimately got two kills to end the Mastodons’ comeback bid.
Crucis, Purdue Fort Wayne’s representative on the All-Tournament team, dug out a match-high 19 attacks. Crowe had another double-double with 13 kills and 12 digs. Jackson had a match-high six blocks and 11 kills.
Despite going to five sets twice in the opening weekend, Purdue Fort Wayne falls to 0-3 to start the season. Kent State went 2-1 to finish runner-up. The Mastodons will return to the court on Friday, September 3 when they play in the Discover Kalamazoo Classic hosted by Western Michigan. The ‘Dons will play the host Broncos, Southeast Missouri and Big Ten foe Indiana.