The University of Rhode Island volleyball team won two of their three matches at the Art Carmichael Invitational this past weekend to claim second place, sweeping the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers in three sets and losing to the University of Cincinnati in four.
The 9-1 Rams defeated their first opponent, NJIT, quickly with victories of 25-21, 25-21 and 25-18. Junior Franki Darnold led Rhode Island with a match-high 18 kills on the afternoon, leading her team to a 42-28 advantage in that category.
Sophomore middle blocker Layne Self registered seven total blocks and eight kills on the afternoon to control most of the action at the net. Senior Catie Steffen led the match with 12 digs while also adding eight kills. Sophomore Callan Kinnan had 22 assists, four digs and three block assists in only two sets of playing.
“I felt we came out and remained strong throughout the match doing what we had to in order to get the result,” Rhode Island head coach Bob Schneck said. “Franki and Layne were exceptional for us here as they have been all season, and I hope to only continue to see this type of performance out of our ladies for the rest of the invitational and season”.
The Cincinnati duo of Morgan Allred and Emma Roberson was too much for Rhode Island to handle as they combined for 37 of Cincinnati’s 60 kills and ended the Rams’ winning streak.
Going into the second set trailing for only the second time all season, Rhode Island responded holding a 22-15 advantage. The Bearcats attempted a comeback, Self had a kill to put the Cincinnati run to an end at 23-20. Rhode Island claimed the second set, 25-23, but were beaten in the next two matches after allowing Cincinnati to pull away.
“The first loss is always a tough one especially on our home court even though the girls fought hard to get back into it,” Schneck said. “We still have a game to play tomorrow in order to ensure second place so that is our main concern. We are going to use this loss as a learning experience for tomorrow and the rest of the season.”
Rhode Island got back in winning form on Saturday afternoon when they defeated and swept Rutgers University in the final match, with second place at the invitational on the line. The Rams cruised through the first two sets without any issue, winning 25-21 and 25-13. Rhode Island scored six of the first seven points in the third set, but Rutgers fought back to take a 12-10 lead.
The Scarlet Knights got out to a 21-17 lead, but three straight errors followed by a kill from Rhode Island senior Catie Steffen evened the score up at 21 apiece. Rutgers took the lead back at 23-22, but the Rams proved to be too much when Darnold’s 11th kill on the afternoon sealed the win. Steffen and Darnold led all players with 11 kills each. Darnold also registered a career-high three service aces.
“I am very proud of the way our ladies responded after a tough loss to Cincinnati,” Schneck said. “They played so hard all weekend and I know this only marks the beginning for this group, just a shame we could not finish this one in first”.
Following the second-place finish for Rhode Island Steffen and Darnold were both named to the Wendy Miranda All-Tournament Team. Kinnan and Self also received the Atlantic 10 Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week Awards, respectively.
Rhode Island will return to game action next weekend when they travel to the University of New Hampshire to compete in the Holly Young Invitational. Rhode Island will take on New Mexico State University on Friday before facing the University of New Hampshire and Brown on Saturday.