Ryan Murphy, Sports Information Director
AVE MARIA, Fla. – The Ave Maria University volleyball team earned their first ever postseason win on Friday evening, sweeping the Southeastern University Fire in the quarterfinals of The Sun Conference Tournament at the Rhodora J. Donahue Academy gymnasium. The Gyrenes avenged a loss to SEU in the quarterfinals of last season’s conference tournament, and advanced for the first time ever into the semifinals.
Ave Maria started fast in the opening set, jumping out to a 6-1 thanks to six unanswered points after the Fire scored the first point of the match. Southeastern never again got closer than three points as AMU cruised to the first set victory. On Ave Maria’s second set point opportunity, reigning Sun Conference Setter of the Week Katie Grose logged a kill to finish off a 25-17 triumph for the Gyrenes.
Southeastern made it interesting in the second set, and were tied with the Gyrenes as late as 15-15. AMU responded with four straight points to open up a 19-15 lead, but SEU hung around to get back within one at 23-22. On SEU’s serve, the Gyrenes set up set point on a Zelie Kessler kill, then took a 2-0 lead in the match on an ace from Miah Pena.
The Gyrenes used a 13-4 run to pull away from the Fire in the third set, putting the finishing touches on the most important victory in program history to date. The run included three consecutive blocks from Cabriella Bouterse and Erica Chenard. The Fire never got closer than seven points after the Gyrene run, and AMU finished off the victory with four of the match’s final five points. The final point of the night was accounted for by Madelyn Haut, who logged a kill on AMU’s second match point.
AMU logged a .286 hitting percentage during the match, and had the better attack percentage in each of the three sets. The Gyrenes dominated at the net, blocking eight Southeastern attacks while allowing just one block to the Fire. Ave Maria’s block held Southeastern to a .109 hitting percentage, which included a -.059 mark in the final set.
Bouterse led the Gyrene attack with 16 kills on 20 swings, good for an .800 attack percentage. Zelie Kessler also added eleven kills, which also came without an error. Grose had 35 assists from the setter position, while Victoria Schein led AMU with thirteen digs and Hannah Jones chipped in with 12. At the net, Chenard had five block assists, Bouterse had four, and both Kessler and Haut had three.
Following the victory, the Gyrenes await the winner of Saturday’s quarterfinal between Coastal Georgia and Warner. The winner of that match will come to Ave Maria on Monday evening for the semifinals of The Sun Conference Tournament. One of AMU, Coastal Georgia, and Warner will then advance to Wednesday night’s conference championship game, which will be hosted by the highest remaining seed.