No. 6 Duluth outlasts No. 22 Wildcats in five-set thriller

In a tightly contested match that featured 37 ties and 17 lead changes, sixth-ranked Minnesota Duluth outlasted No. 22 Wayne State in a five-set Northern Sun Conference volleyball marathon Saturday at Rice Auditorium, winning 25-23, 22-25, 25-17, 23-25, 15-12.

The visiting Bulldogs handed Wayne State heartbreak in the first set as UMD rallied from a 22-17 deficit to take the first set. Jaci Brahmer had five kills in the first set while Alyssa Ballenger recorded two service aces.

The second set was close throughout while the Wildcats took a 21-16 lead, forcing a Duluth timeout.  After the Bulldogs rallied within one at 23-22 to force a Wayne State timeout, the Wildcats used an Erin Gross kill and a Duluth attack error to win the second set and tie the match at 1-1. Wayne State forced nine Bulldog attack errors in the set while Brahmer and Gross led the Wildcats in hitting with three kills each.

Minnesota Duluth turned a 13-13 tie in the third set into a 2-1 set advantage, forcing six Wildcat attack errors while hitting .342 with 17 kills. Brahmer produced six kills on eight attacks in the third set that saw 12 ties and seven lead changes.

Wayne State built an early 6-1 lead in the fourth set to gain momentum and held off several charges by Duluth to send it to the winner-take-all fifth set. Tarrin Beller, Brahmer and Gross each had three kills while Maddie Duffy and Katie Stephens each had service aces.

The fifth set featured five ties and two lead changes, but Duluth took the lead for good with a pair of service aces from Kate Berg to break a 5-5 tie. 

Down 8-5, Wayne State got as close as 10-9 following a Beller kill. But the Bulldogs reeled off three straight points for a 13-9 lead and Minnesota Duluth finished with the five-set win.

Brahmer recorded 20 kills and had a .444 attack percentage to lead the Wildcats followed by  Gross with 10 kills.  Haley Kauth accounted for 16 digs with Katie Stephens adding 10. Megan Gebhardt was credited with 44 set assists. Beller recorded a team-high six blocks while Ballenger finished with three service aces.

Wayne State (19-11, 12-8 NSIC) will play at Concordia-St. Paul in the first round of the NSIC Tournament Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. in St. Paul, Minn.

The Wayne Herald

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