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Union wins on the road at Denver
September 6, 2018

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Union volleyball kicked off conference play on Thursday, Aug. 30 with a road win at Denver in three sets to wind down the Cyclones and recover from the previous weekend's struggles.

"I knew we had to play better going forward," coach Brian Jesse said. "We didn't have a very good weekend at Independence for one reason or another. I thought let's come back with good practices and right the ship a little bit."

Despite the sluggish weekend, the Knights came out with a fire lit under them in the first set to win 25-18 in a road environment against a team slated to finish near the middle or top of the NICL with their scrappy play and risky serving.

"Denver is pretty scrappy, not very big," Jesse said. "I thought they would serve harder and they came out with high-risk serving and we handled those well."Denver is in the middle of the pack and we hope to finish ahead of that obviously."

The Cyclones hardly made it easy for Union in the second set, playing competitively through the set as both teams traded blows at the net and at the serving line. After dealing with an injury during the Independence tournament earlier, sophomore hitter Belle Weber flexed her overall game to keep Union ahead to win 25-22. Another contributing factor to the second set and match was their defense improving, according to Jesse.

"All our defensive specialists and libero showed up today, our passing was better," Jesse said. "Belle had quite a few kills. Jazz [Bush] just does a lot of little things that keeps points alive. Our middles were better today, efficient at closing the blocks better and all of that makes a difference."

Now down two sets, Denver made one final push for their faithful home crowd, starting out 4-0 over the Knights. Rather than fold, Union answered with a 6-1 run of their own quickly as they found their footing again. By the time Denver called timeout with Union up 14-8, the momentum had shifted back into the Knight's side of the court.

"We are more consistent, but we have a ways to go yet," Jesse said. "I feel we have a big upside if we can cut down on some of those errors. We gave Denver some chances because of those tonight, but overall we had some good play."

Despite two timeouts in the last half of the set in an attempt to regain their composure, Denver was unable to answer Union's attack and tightened defense, with the Knights taking the final set 25-14 for their first conference win and a key win on the road. Weber finished with 17 kills, five digs, four assisted blocks, successfully served on 13 of 14 attempts and had five aces. Bush contributed eight kills, seven digs and went perfect on the line with six serves. Hannah Gates and Allie Driscol combined for 30 assists on the night, with Gates also making 21 of her 23 serving attempts. Megan Carty chipped in four kills and Allie Carty had seven digs.

"We showed glimpses today of being that better team we want to be, but we have to be more consistent overall," Jesse said. "Our serve receive was way better and we were assisting more, which makes a huge difference with our setters making the right choices. I thought our hitting was pretty good. We had a few unforced errors, but I feel we had some good swings. Any win on the road is a good win with the tough environment. Our student section was quite into the match, which was good."

With the win in their pocket and signs of better volleyball on the horizon, Union hoped their road victory will be useful as they chase a conference title and hosted Dike-New Hartford on Tuesday, Sept. 4. The Wolverines defeated the Knights in four sets to remain on top of the conference. Check out the September 14 issue for the full story.

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