JMU roundup: Dukes fall to Highlanders in volleyball

Daily Staff Reports – sports@nvdaily.com

RADFORD – Sophomore libero MacKenzie Kleespies collected a season-high 20 digs and freshman middle blocker Hanna Radhi had a career-best seven blocks, but Radford had five players with nine or more kills to defeat the James Madison volleyball team 3-1 at the Dedmon Center in Radford on Tuesday night.

JMU lost by set scores of 25-17, 25-20, 19-25, 25-15 to fall to 2-5 on the season and 0-2 in road matches. Radford won its third straight and for the fifth time in its last six matches to improve to 6-2.

Kleespies’ 20 digs were three shy of her career-high set last season against Bethune-Cookman. She added two kills and four assists while not committing a receiving error in 31 attempts. Radhi had two kills to go with her seven blocks while junior middle blocker Lizzy Briones had a team-high 10 kills on .250 hitting. Sophomore right side Janey Goodman and sophomore outside hitter Meghan Niski contributed eight kills each.

Redshirt junior setter Kristi Richardson came off the bench to hand out 14 assists, adding six blocks, three kills and three digs. Sophomore defensive specialist Sierra Hahn-Ventrell made her first career start and supplied six digs.

Rachel Wiechecki and Jordan Watson had 14 kills apiece to pace the Highlanders. Wiechecki finished with a double-double, adding 16 digs, two blocks and a service ace. Emma Deininger had 10 kills while Cheyanne James and Megan Short collected nine kills each. Deininger led RU with seven blocks and James contributed 10 digs and four blocks. Setter Jena Braden handed out 55 assists and just missed a double-double with nine digs.

Radford outhit Madison .239 to .068, finishing with 57 kills to 37 for JMU. The Dukes finished with one more block than Radford at 12 to 11 while each team collected three service aces.

The Highlanders controlled the opening set early, running out to a 16-7 lead. The Dukes responded with a 7-1 run to close the gap to 17-14. After RU called timeout, it close the set by winning eight of the final 11 points, including three kills by Wiechecki.

Set two was tighter early on, with JMU building a 12-10 advantage. The Highlanders responded with an 8-1 run, forcing JMU Head Coach Lauren Steinbrecher to use both of her timeouts. The Dukes trimmed the deficit to three points, but could not overcome the Highlanders, falling 25-20.

After the break, JMU came out strong, building a 12-9 advantage and eventually closed the set by winning nine of the final 13 points to earn the set 25-19. Niski paced the Dukes by converting all three of her attack attempts and adding seven digs in the set.

The Highlanders built a 6-3 lead in set four and never looked back, running away with the 25-15 win.

The Dukes return to action this weekend as they travel to Chapel Hill, N.C., to play in the Carolina Classic. They square off with Albany, No. 18 North Carolina and George Washington in the two-day tournament.