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Warriors cruise past Statesmen in first day of Country Inn & Suites Invitational

Waldorf Warriors LogoBy: Matt Oliver

FOREST CITY – After dropping a pair of hard-fought matches, the Waldorf University volleyball team swept William Penn University to close out the opening day of the Country Inn & Suites Invitational on Friday.

“Overall, it was a good day after a slow start,” Waldorf coach Paul Meyer said.

Central Methodist University (8-2) fought off the Warriors (2-5) in the opening match, winning by scores of 27-25, 25-18, 25-17, 25-19.

“I thought we started strong and did a great job of pulling out a close first-set win, but we didn’t maintain our energy and didn’t play our style of volleyball the rest of the match,” Meyer said.

Kayla Budgins led Waldorf with 15 kills in the opening match. The 6-foot sophomore middle hitter from Germantown, Wisconsin posted a .481 hitting percentage while collecting two solo blocks.

Junior Kaitlyn Monck connected for 10 kills, junior Rebecca Bartnicki added eight kills and a solo block while senior Megan Perkins provided seven kills and six digs.

Senior Valerie Rivera paced the Warriors with 24 assists, to go along with seven digs and five kills. Freshman Elisabeth Tramm turned in nine assists.

Waldorf junior Briley Sullivan recorded 16 digs, junior Isabelle Rothbauer and junior Erica Fee came away with eight digs apiece while Monck finished with seven digs.

Waldorf notched five service aces, receiving aces from Fee, Monck, Budgins, Rivera and Sullivan.

NCAA Division II’s Minnesota State University-Moorhead (2-0) held off the Warriors 25-18, 25-19, 24-26, 22-25, 15-8 in a five-set battle.

“I thought we played our best overall match of the year, losing a great five-set match,” Meyer said.

Bartnicki racked up 13 kills, one solo block and six block assists. Budgins delivered 12 kills and two aces while Monck added 11 kills to Waldorf’s attack.

Rivera dished out 32 assists and aided the Warriors at the net with four block assists. Tramm set up the offense with 14 assists and tallied an ace.

Sullivan and Fee worked the court for 17 digs each. Rivera contributed 12 digs and junior Molly Minich closed out the match with 10 digs.

The Dragons controlled the contest early, turning in a team hitting percentage of .469 and .485, respectively through the first two sets.

“We were playing well, but not matching MSU-Moorhead’s attacks,” Meyer said. “They were finding holes, and you won’t win sets allowing teams to hit over .400, and it was simply hard to match.”

Waldorf responded, locking in defensively to reel off wins in back-to-back sets. The Dragons saw their hitting percentage dip to .093 in the third set and .020 in the fourth set.

“The third and fourth sets, the defense cranked it up to keep MSU-Moorhead hitting under .100,” Meyer said. “We had a huge come-from-behind win in the third set and continued our great play into the fourth set.”

The Dragons, who compete in the always-tough Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC), got back on the track in the final set. Hitting .258 for the match, they generated a .476 hitting clip in the fifth set.

“I thought MSU-Moorhead’s top hitters took over the match and finished on top,” Meyer said. “It was a great match against a very talented Division II squad.”

The Warriors bounced back, capping the night by cruising to a 25-14, 25-22, 25-13 win over William Penn (1-6).

“After that long tough loss, the team did an outstanding job of finishing strong with a sweep for our first home win of the year,” Meyer said.

Budgins powered Waldorf with 11 kills while adding four aces, a solo block and block assist. Perkins registered nine kills, Bartnicki notched eight kills, Monck finished with seven kills and Rothbauer contributed five kills.

Rivera handed out 23 assists and recorded three aces. Tramm also set up her teammates with 10 assists.

Minich and Fee connected for one ace apiece, helping the Warriors to nine aces in the win.

Sullivan collected 12 digs and Minich provided 10 digs. Rivera and Fee ended the match with five digs each.

Closing out the opening day of the Country Inn & Suites Invitational with a victory, Waldorf looks to finish the weekend strong. The Warriors wrap up their home tournament on Saturday, taking on Sterling College (4-3) at 11:30 a.m. and Mount Mercy University (7-1) at 3:30 p.m.

“It was a very good first day,” Meyer said. “We took some big steps.”