DES MOINES, IA. (WFIE) - It was a strong finish to the opening weekend of Missouri Valley Conference play for the University of Evansville volleyball team with the Purple Aces earning a 3-1 victory over Drake on Saturday evening at the Knapp Center.
Melanie Feliciano paced everyone with 24 kills with Rachel Tam just behind, posting 20. Alondra Vazquez notched 11 kills and added 32 digs. Gabriela Macedo notched a game-high 30 digs while Allana McInnis continued to rack up assists at one of the top rates in the country, totaling 50 in the victory for the Aces (10-3, 1-1 MVC). Hannah Watkins and Patricia Joseph recorded three block assists apiece.
“We are very happy with the level that we played at this weekend. These girls fight so hard for every point; it is fun to coach and watch,” UE coach Fernando Morales said. “My favorite thing that I learned on the trip this weekend was the change in mentality of this team. Last season, they were happy with playing a close match against a top team in the conference. This year, they were made about the loss at UNI even though they know we played a good match.”
Drake (7-8, 1-1 MVC) was led by a 17-kill effort from Haley Bush and 11 kills from Elle Tubbs. Paige Aspinwall registered 41 assists. The Bulldogs came out of the gate strong, jumping out to a 6-2 lead on an Aspinwall service ace. The Aces cut the deficit to one (15-14) on a Vazquez kill, but the Bulldogs bounced back and took game one by a final of 25-17.
The Bulldogs had another nice start to game two, opening up a 6-3 lead before Evansville responded with three in a row to tie it up. Drake was able to retake the lead, going up by six at 18-12. That is when freshman Laura Ruiz played a huge role in a turning the tides for UE. A pair of service aces highlighted a 5-0 run. Following a DU point, the Aces came right back with five in a row to go up by a 22-20 tally. UE never looked back and tied the match with a 25-21 win.
Evansville’s momentum continued into game three as a Feliciano kill capped off an 8-2 run to begin the set. Drake managed to get within three at 9-6, but Evansville proved to be too much. Up 21-14, the Aces reeled off four of the last five points, including another ace from Ruiz, to take a 25-15 victory and a 2-1 lead in the match.
In game four, the teams swapped the lead in the early going, but with Drake up 9-8, the Aces had another game-changing rally, scoring five in a row before cruising to the match victory with a 25-14 decision. Vazquez had two kills in the 5-0 stretch. The Bulldogs posted a point on a UE error to make it a 16-11 game, but another huge rally – this one a 7-0 stretch – put the game out of reach for Drake as Evansville evened its Valley mark at 1-1.
Next up for UE is the home conference opener on Monday evening when the Aces face Illinois State in a 5 p.m. match inside Meeks Family Fieldhouse.