UE earns 3-1 win over Bradley
CHICAGO – Freshman Giulia Cardona set her career mark with 23 kills to power the University of Evansville volleyball team to a 3-1 win over Bradley in the second round of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship.
With wins over Sam Houston and Bradley, the Purple Aces advance to the quarterfinals where they will face Valparaiso in a road match on Monday at 7 p.m.
“It was a great overall performance. The girls are in great rhythm and followed the game plan exactly how we planned it,” UE head volleyball coach Fernando Morales exclaimed following the win.
Cardona led all players with her 23 kills and added 8 digs and 3 aces. It surpassed her previous record of 22 kills, which came earlier this season at Miami Ohio. Alondra Vazquez and Melanie Feliciano recorded 15 kills apiece and each finished with a double-double as they added 11 and 16 digs, respectively. Blakeley Freeman led UE with 23 digs and Taya Haffner picked up 53 assists. Kate Tsironis recorded a solo block and two block assists. Bradley was paced by Serena Sparks, who had a match-high 25 digs.
Set 1 – UE 25, Bradley 18
Evansville set an early tone, jumping out to an 8-2 lead to begin the match. Giulia Cardona tallied three kills in the opening sequence while Melanie Feliciano added a pair. Taya Haffner also picked up an ace. Bradley got within four points before UE extended the lead to 13-5 with Laura Ruiz adding a pair of aces. Over the remainder of the set, the Braves would not get closer than five points with the Aces cruising to a 25-18 win to grab the first set.
Set 2 – Bradley 27, UE 25
UE scored the first two points of the second frame before Bradley responded to take their first lead of the match at 5-4. The Braves took multiple 2-point leads including 13-11 before Evansville stormed back with three in a row to retake a 14-13 edge. The teams dueled it out down the stretch with ten tie scores. Bradley took a 2-point edge at 19-17 but the Aces came back to take three leads, including 24-23 on a Vazquez kill. With things knotted at 25-25, the Braves picked up the final two points to seal the win.
Set 3 – UE 25, Bradley 15
Momentum was on Bradley’s side to open the third frame as they scored the opening three points and holding the lead through the opening stages. The Aces rallied to tie the score at 9-9 on a kill by Cardona. That was part of an 8-0 Evansville run that saw them turn a 9-7 deficit into a 15-9 lead. Three points in the run came from Cardona kills. The Braves chipped away to get within four points (18-14), but the Aces scored the final four points with Blakeley Freeman adding an ace in a 25-15 victory.
Set 4 – UE 25, Bradley 20
Needing just one more set to advance to the quarterfinals, Evansville took a 4-2 lead to open the fourth before Bradley grabbed a 6-5 edge before stretching the advantage out to 12-9. The pivotal run for UE came at that moment. Kate Tsironis started a 4-0 run that included two more Cardona kills and one from Madisyn Steele. Bradley tied it at 14-14, but it was Alondra Vazquez getting UE back in front with a kill to make it 16-15 and the Aces would hold strong from there. In a fitting end to the match, it was an ace from Giulia Cardona that paved the way into the quarterfinals with a 25-20 win and a 3-1 match final.
Another Missouri Valley Conference foe awaits UE in the next round when they will match up at Valparaiso in a 7 p.m. contest on Monday evening.