DES MOINES, IOWA - The Drake University volleyball team earned its first sweep of the season with a 3-0 win over Evansville Saturday evening at the Knapp Center. Bentley Mancini (Burnsville, Minn.) recorded a match-high 12 kills as one of four Bulldogs in double figures in kills in the Missouri Valley Conference win.
Drake (4-19, 3-9 MVC) earned the victory by scores of 25-21, 25-20 and 25-22 and held Evansville (8-18, 3-10 MVC) to a .099 hitting percentage.
"Tonight we had solid passing and defense that allowed us to transition fast into our offense," head coach Tony Sunga said. "We are able to transition quickly and hit back onto their side of the court to get some key points. We understood tonight that we had to push back when they pushed us and that shows the growth we have had this fall. Tonight we came out with determination and energy to take early points and finished strong to win each set."
Joining Mancini in pacing the Bulldogs' offensive attack was Amanda Platte (Mount Vernon, Iowa) and Cassie Effken (Lincoln, Neb.) with 11 kills and Jadranka Tramosljanin (Ruma, Serbia) with 10. Hannah Wilson led the Aces with 13 kills in the loss. Tramosljanin added 15 digs for her team-leading 11th double-double of the season.
Drake trailed by a slim margin early in the first set before assembling an 8-3 run that way keyed by a pair of blocks from Katie Dulek (Lenexa, Kan.) to take a 14-11 lead over the Aces. However, Evansville countered that with four straight points to briefly reclaim the lead and keep the set close until a Mancini kill fueled a 6-2 run to end the set. Platte also recorded a kill during that run to finish with a set-high seven kills on 15 attempts as the Bulldogs hit .271 in the set.
That momentum carried over into the second set as the Bulldogs scored five-straight points to take an early 6-1 behind the serving of Sarah Madden (Van Meter, Iowa), forcing Evansville to burn an early timeout in the process. The Aces got no closer than three points and trailed by as many as six three times in the set as Mancini and Tramosljanin each had four kills in the set to pace the Bulldogs in the 25-20 win.
The third and final set saw both teams stay within arms' reach of each other until Drake pulled away to score five of the final seven points of the set to win, 25-22. That rally started with a block from Effken and Mancini to give the Bulldogs a 21-20 lead that they would not relinquish. Three points later, an ace from Scarlett Howerter (Lincoln, Neb.) - her second of the evening - forced match point and allowed Tramosljanin to end the match with her 10th kill of the night. The Aces committed 10 of their 23 attack errors in the match during the final set and hit into two of Drake's five blocks in the match during the final set.
"Cassie (Effken) and really our whole team did a great job this week working hard to do more to help us succeed," Sunga said. "Cassie has done a great job for us since day one when we plugged her into the middle and she brings a steady presence and maturity you don't see from freshman in this game. She and Katie (Dulek) both had some big blocks for us tonight."
The Bulldogs now sit in seventh place in the Valley and trail Missouri State (7-6). The top six teams qualify for the MVC tournament, which will be held in Springfield, Mo., Nov. 22-24. The Bulldogs will face Missouri State in Springfield on Friday, Nov. 16.
Drake will have a pair of road matches next weekend. The Bulldogs will travel to Cedar Falls to face the Northern Iowa Panthers on Friday, Nov. 2, with the Bradley Braves in Peoria, Ill. the following night. Both matches will start at 7 p.m.