Aces sweep Dunn Hospitality Tournament
University of Evansville volleyball players Gabriela Macedo and Melanie Feliciano set program records on Saturday evening when the University of Evansville volleyball team capped off the Dunn Hospitality Tournament with a thrilling 3-2 win over Eastern Illinois. UE began the day with a 3-1 win over Middle Tennessee State.
Macedo tallied 41 digs for UE (5-2), passing the previous program mark of 40 set by Kim Deprez in 2015. Feliciano came away from the match with two program marks. With 36 kills, she bested Jessica Kiefer’s Aces record of 32 while her 95 attempts surpassed the previous record by 27. Kiefer set the single match kill record with 32 against Western Kentucky in 2001 while the old attempt mark of 68 was set by Mandy Goldman in 1988 versus Dayton.
“Gabriela is the heart of the team; she keeps her composure and does a great job of keeping everyone focused,” UE coach Fernando Morales said. “She does so many things without you even knowing; great players do that. I say it all the time, but Melanie keeps getting better every day. She is such a hard worker and finds a way to get it done.”
The Aces duo not only made program history but also etched their way into the Missouri Valley Conference record book. Feliciano’s kill tally is tied for the second-most in league history. Bobbi Becker of UNI holds the record of 40 while Feliciano’s final is tied with Tracy Stroyan (Illinois State), Michelle Witzke (Missouri State) and Lindsay Stalzer (Bradley). The 95 attempts by the freshman are the new conference record. It passed Stalzer’s tally of 94, which interestingly enough, came against Evansville in 2005. Macedo’s total of 41 digs is tied for the 6th-highest tally in conference history. She is one of just 16 players to notch 41 or more in a single match.
Trailing 14-10 in game five against Eastern Illinois, the Aces reeled off five in a row before clinching the match and tournament with a 17-15 win. Feliciano had 36 kills in 95 attempts, both UE records. Alondra Vazquez added 17 kills while Rachel Tam had 14. Allana McInnis posted 65 assists while the defense was led by Macedo’s 41 digs. Feliciano and Vazquez recorded 20 apiece. Hannah Watkins added eight block assists while Feliciano had six of her own.
“We did not play our best against Eastern Illinois, but we found a way to win,” Morales explained. “The best teams do that and it’s a great time for us to do that with conference coming up soon.”
Despite falling into an 8-4 hole in the first game versus the Panthers, the Aces rallied back. Feliciano’s fourth kill knotted the set at 12-12 before UE took its first lead at 15-14. Evansville was on the cusp of the win, leading 24-22, but EIU rallied with a pair. Feliciano ended the stretch with a kill, but EIU kept fighting and was able to take a 28-27 edge. It was Feliciano and Tam adding another kill apiece as UE took a 31-29 win and a 1-0 lead in the match.
A Patricia Joseph kill helped Evansville reel off the first four points of game two and the Aces lead held strong at 10-6. That is when the Panthers made their first big run, scoring the next four tallies before taking their first advantage at 12-11. UE pushed right back when a Laura Ruiz ace gave the Aces a 13-12 lead. Three errors in a row by the Aces helped the Panther retake a 21-19 edge. Trailing 24-21, the Aces scored two in a row before Eastern Illinois had the clinching point, taking game two by a 25-23 final.
Evansville once again had the momentum out of the gate, scoring three of the first four points before jumping out to a 7-2 lead in the third frame. UE continued to hold strong, up 15-9, but the Panthers had other ideas. Four in a row cut the deficit to just a pair before they got within one. A timely block by Patricia Joseph and Alondra Vazquez saw the lead go back up to three at 19-16 and UE went on to take a 25-19 win from there to grab a 2-1 match lead.
Cecilia Thon had a service ace to push the Aces out to a 5-3 lead in the fourth set. EIU cut the deficit to a pair at 11-9 but the Aces rallied once again with consecutive Feliciano kills that extended the lead to 14-9. EIU responded with a run that tied it up at 15-15 and battled again to make it 21-21. They eventually went back into the lead at 24-23. Kills from Feliciano and Vazquez put the Aces back in front before the teams battled to the finish. Neither team relented until EIU posted the final two, taking the set by a 31-29 score.
EIU took charge to begin the fifth set, opening up an 8-3 advantage. Evansville managed to cut its deficit to just one at 9-8 but Eastern Illinois looked to have the match in their grasp when they took a 14-10 edge. The Aces refused to give in as Feliciano started a miraculous comeback. Her kill helped put serving duties into Cecilia Thon’s hands. The sophomore responded with an ace that cut the deficit to just two. UE kept rolling from there as two EIU errors and another Feliciano tally gave UE a 15-14 lead. Following a point from EIU that tied it, the Aces scored the final two and clinched the match.
“I told our girls in the last time out that I know we can make rallies against this team,” Morales said. “Melanie breaking the record got the girls pumped; wanted to win it for her and that is what they did.”
Saturday’s opener saw Melanie Feliciano tally 27 kills while hitting .371 to lead UE to a 3-1 win over Middle Tennessee State. Rachel Tam posted 14 kills while Alondra Vazquez registered seven. Gabriela Macedo had 19 digs with Vazquez and Allana McInnis contributing 11. Hannah Watkins added six of UE’s 16 blocks in the match.
Middle Tennessee State opened up a 7-4 lead in the opening set before Gabriela Macedo helped the Aces take an 8-7 lead with a service ace. The Blue Raiders opened another lead at 11-8, but Evansville rallied again to tie it at 12-12 before a Laura Ruiz ace gave UE the lead for good. With the score tied at 20-20, Alondra Vazquez posted consecutive kills that gave the Aces the lead for good. Two late kills from Tam put the finishing touches on the 25-22 triumph.
An ace by Rachel Tam got UE off to a 3-1 start before a double block by Hannah Watkins and Feliciano extended the edge to 5-1. The Blue Raiders tied the game at 6-6 before taking their first lead at 11-10. MTSU grabbed a 3-point edge at 14-11 before back-to-back UE blocks helped them get back within one. Just as fast as Evansville cut into the deficit, Middle Tennessee State extended it out to four at 22-18. Watkins played a pivotal role in the Aces making a comeback. A kill and two block assists helped UE turn the deficit into a 23-22 lead while she assisted on the clinching block as the Aces took a 2-0 match lead with a 25-23 win in the second set.
A quick start by the Blue Raiders saw them score the first five points of the third stanza before pushing that lead to 7-1. Their advantage reached as many as eight points at 17-9 before the Aces made a rally. UE got within four at 21-17, but MTSU overcame the stretch
Evansville did not let the third set deter them as they opened up a 5-2 edge to start game four. Three Feliciano kills saw that lead reach four points at 13-9 and the Aces were able to pull away for a 25-17 win that clinched the 3-1 match victory.
Feliciano was the tournament MVP while Macedo, McInnis and Vazquez earned spots on the All-Tournament Team.