ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The 2013-2014 athletic season officially got underway for the Goshen College Athletics Department as the Maple Leaf volleyball team split a pair of contest at the Concordia University Kick-Off Tournament on Friday.
After suffering a 25-14, 25-18, 18-25, 25-23 loss in the season opener to the tournament hosts, the Leafs bounced back to win the key points down the stretch in a 25-22, 11-25, 25-20, 25-22 victory over Indiana University East.
"We kept getting better and better as the day and matches went on," head coach Jim Routhier explained. "We are really scrappy this year and have a lot of options when it comes to players and positions."
After splitting the first two sets, Goshen found themselves in a 20-20 tie in the third set against IU East. Behind kills by juniors Sam Heberling and Melanie Meyer and a Lexa Magnuson service ace, the Leafs rolled off five-straight points to go up two sets to one.
A set later, Goshen was down 22-20 with IU East looking to force a decisive fifth set. Again, though, the Leafs rattled off five points in a row, capped by a Kelsey Smith ace, to close out their first win of the year.
The Maple Leafs improved to 2-0 all-time against the RedWolves, who went 44-6 last season, but have a new coach and 10 first-year players on this year's roster.
"IU East was big across the front," Routhier continued. "We really worked at trying to move our hitters around and wear their front line down. Our defense really stepped up and our serving may have been the difference in the game. Freshman Lexa Magnuson stepped in and really helped us on the front line. Kelsey (Smith) and Missy (Mackowiak) had a great serving match and kept IU East on the defensive and out of their system."
Heberling led all attackers with 11 kills and just four errors (.206 hitting), while Meyer added nine kills and Magnuson had eight. Another junior, Missy Mackowiak, led the team with 14 digs and three aces. Smith had 18 assists, while junior Megan Strock posted a career high 11 digs.
Earlier in the day, the Leafs could not upset the rhythm of the hosts in both team's season opener. "Concordia was an excellent defensive team and we kept pushing the ball trying to force them into errors," Routhier said. "They had good hitting as well as blocking at the net."
Meyer led the team with seven kills, while sophomore Katy Anspach had six before leaving with an injury. Mackowiak had 12 digs and six aces, while Emily Waits and Natalie Hubby each had five kills on just one hitting error.
The event will continue for Goshen (1-1) tomorrow as they face off against the University of Michigan-Dearborn (9 a.m.) and Mount Vernon Nazarene University (11 a.m.). They have a rematch against Concordia at home next Wednesday (21st).