LAS CRUCES, N.M. - The Drake University volleyball team dropped its match Friday night, 3-0, to the Northwestern Wildcats in the first match of the 2012 La Quinta Invitational hosted by New Mexico State. The Wildcats won by scores of 27-25, 25-16, 25-16 to improve to 4-0 and the loss drops the Bulldogs to 0-4 this season.
A pair of freshmen, Katie Dulek (Lenexa, Kan.) and Cassie Effken (Lincoln, Neb.), had solid performances Friday night at the middle blocker positions for the Blue and White. Effken, who was named to the all-tournament team last weekend at the Green Bay Tournament, tallied eight kills and five block solos. Dulek added four kills and four block assists.
"The middles continue to make progress for us," Drake head coach Tony Sunga said. "We are a young team especially with Cassie and Katie in the middle but they continue to get experience each match and help us."
It was a close first set with the teams trading points early. Drake rattled off four straight points to take a 14-11 lead after a kill by freshman Scarlett Howerter (Lincoln, Neb.) and forced Northwestern to take a timeout. The Bulldogs held a 23-21 lead after an attack error by Northwestern but the Wildcats closed out the set with a kill by Savannah Paffen and an attack error by the Bulldogs, 27-25.
The Wildcats carried the first-set momentum into the second set and the young Bulldogs could never get going falling 25-16 as they tallied just nine kills with seven errors.
In the third and final set the Bulldogs fell behind again this time trailing 15-7 after an attack error by freshman Shelby Daum (Battle Cree, Neb.). The young Bulldogs didn't give up though and cut the lead to 17-14 after an attack error by Northwestern's Monica McGreal. The Wildcats responded with a 9-2 run to close out the final set and earn the win.
"We were the team we want to be in that first set but with it being so tight all the way to the end and not quite pulling it out, we had a letdown and it carried over to the next two sets," Sunga said. "Overall we have to do a better job of maintaining our competitive edge and turn things our way but the fire is there and we have to continue to ride through the peaks and valleys of being a young team."
The Bulldogs will return to action tomorrow with a 1:30 p.m. (CT) match against the New Mexico State Aggies and a 5:30 p.m. (CT) against the Cincinnati Bearcats.