RIO GRANDE, Ohio — Tuesday night’s volleyball matchup between the University of Rio Grande and West Virginia University-Tech was remarkably similar to their late August meeting at the Emileigh Cooper Memorial Tournament in Jackson, Ohio.
The two biggest differences were that Tuesday’s match counted toward the River States Conference standings and that it was the RedStorm emerged victorious from a five-set marathon.
Head coach Billina Donaldson’s squad won for the 10th time in its last outings, posting a 26-28, 25-21, 25-21, 18-25, 15-12 triumph over the Golden Bears before a spirited crowd at the Newt Oliver Arena.
Rio Grande improved to 11-4 overall and 2-1 in conference play with the win.
WVU-Tech slipped to 12-7 overall and 1-2 in league play as a result of the loss.
The Golden Bears coughed up a 20-12 lead in the opening set, but survived the last of five late ties forged by the RedStorm with the final two points to take an early match lead.
Rio scored six of the final eight winners to win set two and 10 of the final 13 points in the third stanza, but couldn’t maintain the momentum in set four.
The RedStorm appeared headed toward a decisive victory in the fourth period by racing to a 14-8 lead, but the Golden Bears reeled off 12 consecutive winners — including five aces by reigning RSC Defender of the Week Sawyer Hawgood over a stretch of six serves — to gain the advantage and force the deciding set.
Rio erased a 2-1 deficit with seven straight winners — a stretch which included four kills and a solo block by junior Rachael Gilkey (Nelsonville, OH) — before Tech mounted a rally of its own to tie things at 11-all following a block by Valentina Abondano.
Consecutive kills by freshman Malorie Colwell (London, OH) and senior Kinnison Donaldson (Jackson, OH) put the RedStorm in front stay and, after the Golden Bears drew within 13-12 on a block, sophomore Jess Youse (Pettisville, OH) closed out the night with a kill and a solo block to nail down the win.
Gilkey had 15 kills, a solo block and four block assists to pace Rio, while Youse had 11 kills, two service aces, four solo blocks and two block assists in the winning effort.
The RedStorm, who survived a season-high 30 attack errors en route to the victory, also got 42 assists, 16 digs, two solo blocks and two block assists from junior Macy Roell (Farmersville, OH), while senior Katie Hemsley (Jackson, OH) had 27 digs and two service aces.
Colwell and fellow frosh Kacie Trame (Toledo, OH) added 20 and 18 digs, respectively, while junior Baylee Pursifull (New Carlisle, OH) had six block assists.
Carolina Bologna had 11 kills to lead WVU-Tech at the net, while Konstantina Pateli finished with 38 assists, 13 digs and two service aces in a losing cause.
Hawgood tallied 21 digs and six aces for the Golden Bears, while Katelyn Byrd and Michaella Guyot-Pulverini recorded 11 and 10 digs, respectively.
Rio Grande returns to action on Friday night when Indiana University East visits for a 7 p.m. first serve. The RedStorm and the Red Wolves are currently tied for second place in the RSC East Division, one game behind Point Park University.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.