Big game for Almodovar as Flyers volleyball advances into NCAA second round with win over Marquette

Led by redshirt freshman Lexie Almodovar (No. 4, pictured with Amelia Moore (No. 6, left) and Mahalia Swink (No. 9, middle) Aug. 27, 2021) the Flyers advance into the second round of the NCAA Tournament after Thursday night’s 3-1 win over Marquette. Photo courtesy of Keegan Gupta, Flyer News.

Peter Burtnett | Sports Editor

After cruising through the first two sets, the Dayton Flyers volleyball team bounced back from a third-set loss to win in four sets over the Marquette Golden Eagles in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday in West Lafayette, Ind.

Redshirt sophomore setter Livie Sandt started the match with an ace for the Flyers, and UD controlled the game through the first ten points. Trailing 7-3, the Golden Eagles called a timeout.

Using finesse with a few sneaky drops kills to increase their advantage, the Flyers won a long rally to earn a point and take a 15-8 lead when the Golden Eagles called another timeout.

Marquette then made a push to trim an eight-point Dayton lead to just 19-14 when the Flyers called timeout needing six points. 

On set point, the Flyers’ senior outside hitter and three-time Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Jamie Peterson got the kill off the assist from redshirt freshman outside hitter Lexie Almodovar to give the Flyers a 25-20 first-set win. In the opening set, Almodovar led the way with five kills and two assists, while Peterson added four kills and Sandt assisted 10 points.

The second set went back-and-forth, with neither team taking more than a two-point lead until a kill by Almodovar was upheld to give the Flyers a 22-19 lead. 

After a service error, the Golden Eagles called timeout trailing 24-21 as the Flyers were on set point. A spike by Peterson earned her ninth kill of the game and gave the Flyers a four-point win in the second set. 

The Golden Eagles burst out to an early 6-2 lead in the third set, forcing a Flyer timeout. Mistakes continued to pile up for the Flyers, who had three service errors and four in attack when they called timeout trailing 11-4.

But from there, the Flyers made a strong push, making more effective attacks and avoiding errors. By the time the Golden Eagles called timeout, the Flyers had cut the deficit to 15-13. A block by Almodovar and service ace by redshirt freshman defensive specialist Anna Wuensch tied the match at 15.

As both teams continued to exchange point for point, the Flyers took their first lead of the set with an unstoppable spike by Almodovar for her 14th kill of the game to give the Flyers a 22-21 lead when Marquette called a timeout. 

On match point, another Flyers serve went into the net for their eighth service error of the set to tie the score at 24. The Golden Eagles took the lead back with a kill by Taylor Wolf and won the set 26-24 on an attacking error by Almodovar.

The balance between both teams continued through the early stages of the fourth set, but the Flyers were able to go on a 4-0 scoring run to flip a two-point deficit into a 9-7 lead when the Golden Eagles called a timeout.

The Flyers held onto at least a two-point advantage throughout the remainder of the set, and led by as many as five. However, that five-point lead was trimmed to 22-19 and the Flyers called a timeout needing three points to advance to the second round.

Marquette was pushed to the breaking point, trailing by four as Dayton reached match point. But the Golden Eagles went on a 3-0 run to cut the deficit to 24-23 and force a Flyers timeout.

As she had done throughout the match, Almodovar once again provided a strong spike for her 21st kill to earn the win in four sets for the Flyers. She also added 15 digs, while Sandt finished with 50 assists, and Peterson and redshirt freshman middle blocker Alayna Yates (.765 hitting percentage) combined for 25 kills. Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Amelia Moore led the team with seven blocks and added seven kills.

With the win, the Flyers advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where they will face Illinois State or No. 6 Purdue at 5 p.m. Friday.

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