Volleyball improves conference record to 6-0 during road trip

Written By Dara Collins

The Pioneers remain undefeated in the Rivers State Conference after a weekend of victorious conference matchups.

The Pioneers took on the Rio Grande RedStorm in the Student Center gym on Sept. 27, a rematch of their Sept. 3 competition at the Battle of the Boulevard tournament, where Rio Grande defeated Point Park in four sets.

Although Point Park lost the first set, the team did not lose momentum. Another four-set game ensued, and the RedStorm took the first set 25-21. The opposite sides of the scoreboard mirrored one another all too often as the teams hustled to maintain or gain a lead. However, the Pioneers battled back to win the next three sets 25-21, 25-16 and 25-19.

Freshman Julia Menosky made an impressive dig at the beginning of set three, and Rio Grande celebrated slightly early. Setter Emily Meng took advantage of their lack of attention, and she pushed a powerful tip to add a point to the Pioneers’ score.

“After a big play happens, you’ll see us get really excited,” sophomore Morgan Dangelo said.

Middle hitter Nikki Inquartano wore a radiating smile when her team huddled after a big kill.

“Once one person gets excited, it just feeds off of everyone, and we’re so close to each other we just want to celebrate each other’s accomplishments,” Inquartano said.

Highlights of the game include Meng’s team-high of 26 assists along with 16 digs and seven kills. Shiloh Simonson added nine kills and seven digs, Ashley Taylor recorded the only two solo blocks of the night, Inquartano produced three kills, three aces and four block assists, Madeline Poirier contributed seven kills and four block assists and Kirsten Burkes killed two balls and assisted five blocks. Menosky totaled 13 digs and Juliana Ross added four of her own to contribute to the Pioneers’ defense.

Dangelo remained along the sidelines while Menosky played libero again.

“It sucks not being on the court,” Dangelo said. “But I’m really proud of the team and how they played today. [I am proud of] the fight in our team. We started out a little rough, but towards the end of the last two matches we played, we really pulled it together.”

When asked about the tri-match approaching, the team confidently predicted the outcome.

“We’re going to come out with a win,” Inquartano said. “I can tell.”

Inquartano’s crystal ball vision became true as the matches unfolded.

The Pioneers traveled to Wilmore, Kentucky, on Oct. 1 to play Asbury and Midway.

“This weekend was awesome,” Taylor said. “We just played so well as a team even for how early in the morning we were awake and for us being on the road for the first time in so long.”

Point Park came out swinging to take the first set 25-16, but the Eagles tied the game up to take set two 25-23. Asbury could not compete with the Pioneers’ energy in the following two sets as Point Park won 25-22 and 25-17.

“They did not expect us to come out and play as well as we did,” Taylor said. “We didn’t take any mercy. The second and third set we were battling the whole time to keep or get the lead over Asbury. There was a point when they were up 14-9 and we got a run and ended up tying it up.”

Assistant coach Bridget Bielich praised the girls on their performance.

“They played terrific,” Bielich said. “They serve received really well. They were in system about 90% of the game.”

Inquartano crushed a game-high of 11 kills and accomplished two solo blocks while Burkes added one herself. The duo also achieved three block assists each. Meng dished out an incredible 37 assists, and Dangelo contributed 18 digs in her first game back.

Dangelo’s days of sitting out with an injury ended, and she returned to the court for the tri-match.

“Morgan [Dangelo] played libero,” Taylor said. “She did great.”

The Pioneers swept their second opponent 3-0. Point Park dominated Midway to win 25-8 and 25-9 in the first two sets and remained in control to reach a 25-22 victory in set three.

Burkes repeated another solo block, and fellow middle hitter Inquartano assisted four blocks. Simonson executed nine kills, Meng contributed 21 assists and Poirier held the game-high of  digs.

“We played clean volleyball,” Bielich said. “They did a good job of staying up and not playing down to their level.”

The slow start to the Pioneers’ season has been long forgotten.

“We were able to create our own energy and presence on the court and impose our will to show the other teams who we are,” Taylor said.

The Pioneers’ overall record stands at 10-12 and their River States Conference record remains unblemished at 6-0.