By: Steve Miller – Sports Editor
On Sunday evening, the Dayton volleyball team secured their Atlantic 10-record 11th conference title with a 3-2 victory over the Saint Louis Billikens. It was the Flyers’ third consecutive A10 title and improved their 2016 season record to 30-1.
In those 31 matches, which include 90 set victories, Dayton lost just 19 sets.
Despite two victories in the A10 tournament, the Flyers moved down two rankings in the Division I AVCA Coaches Poll from No. 22 to 24. With the win Sunday, UD extended its winning streak to 19 consecutive matches.
Dayton, who went undefeated in the A10 during the regular season for the fourth time in their history, earned the conference’s top seed in the tournament. They faced fifth-seeded VCU in the semifinal match on Saturday, Nov. 19 and defeated the Rams 3-2.
In that match, UD won the first set and then dropped two consecutively to VCU before securing the match by winning the fourth and fifth sets. Other than during UD’s lone loss this year to Loyola Marymount on Sept. 16, it was the only time the Flyers dropped two consecutive sets in a match. And until Sunday, the only other time UD played the full five sets this season was Sept. 3 in a home win versus Northwestern.
Sunday, the Flyers faced Saint Louis on the Billikens’ court with the conference title on the line. A10 Player of the Year Danielle Rygelski led SLU out of the gate with a victory in a hotly-contested first set. UD bounced back for a win in set two, but dropped the third.
The Flyers, though, came through with clutch victories in the final two sets to secure the win. Junior Jessica Sloan led the Flyers with 23 kills. Lauren Bruns and Amber Erhahon were not far behind with 16 and 14 kills respectively over the five sets.
SLU recorded more kills than UD in the match, 68-67, but Dayton hit at a much higher clip, .342 to .235. Hitting percentage is the quantity of kills minus errors, divided by total attacks.
Now, the Flyers await their selection for the NCAA Tournament, having won the A10’s automatic bid. In both 2014 and 2015, UD won their first-round game of the tournament before losing to Penn State in the second round. Penn State won the National Championship in 2014, but lost in 2015’s Sweet 16.
This year, Dayton enters the tournament ranked No. 24 and boasts the best winning percentage in the nation (.968). They are more ready than ever to burst past the second round.
“Our goal since the beginning of the season has been to make it to the Sweet 16,” Sloan said in an interview with David Jablonski of Dayton Daily News. “So hopefully we’ll get there. We’re gonna work really hard to make sure it happens.”
The selection show for the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship bracket will be Sunday, Nov. 27 at 9 p.m. and broadcast live on ESPNU.
Photos by Bill Barrett/Atlantic 10