Aug. 25, 2007
In front of a record setting crowd, the American University volleyball team defeated George Washing University Saturday night, 3-2. In what was unarguably the most exciting contest of the D.C. Volleyball Challenge, AU captured the tournament championship coming from behind 2-0 and closed out the tournament with an unblemished 3-0 record.
"We had a great weekend," Head Coach Barry Goldberg said. "A lot of our players got a chance to showcase their talents and we fought through a tough match tonight. We know we are a powerful team and have the capability to come back like we did."
Students, parents, alums and local youth teams filled Bender Arena near its volleyball capacity on way to breaking the record for the largest attendance at a Washington, D.C., women's collegiate volleyball match. The new record now stands at 1,516 fans and tops the previous record, also held by American, by 213.
With the packed arena cheering their every move the Eagles struggled to find consistency throughout the first two games. "We didn't have control early like we did later in the match and it was difficult for us to communicate," Coach Goldberg said. Falling behind early in both games, AU managed to remain close and took leads midway through each. The surges of life were fought off though as the Colonials seemed to have an answer for everything AU could offer. Game two proved particularly odd for the Eagles as their normally powerful offensive attack committed 10 errors.
Facing a 2-0 deficit, AU came out of the break with a new look. Senior Tara Stradling joined teammates on the floor after playing a portion of game two, and freshman Katerina Cinkova stepped onto the hardwood for the first time in her career. The new lineup made up of both old and new reinvigorated the crowd as a "Lets Go Eagles" chant spread through the arena. With Stradling running the offense and two freshmen, Cinkova and Cassandra Ricketts, playing particularly well, AU sprinted out to a 12-7 lead. "Tara was steady and that is what we needed. We also got a great contribution from two of our freshman and both of these combined really helped to turn us around," Goldberg commented. A service ace by Cinkova on her first career serve kept the momentum in the Eagles favor and the freshman held the serve until the lead had increased to 10. With game point on the line at 29-15 experience took over on the court for AU. Senior classmates Chelsa Brooks and Straddling connected for one of Brooks' six kills in the game, slamming the door on game three.
In game four AU opened up to a 7-3 lead which was extended to 9-4, and extended even further to 15-7. The Eagles were unable to keep the lead though as GWU battled its way back to within two. With momentum teetering at 20-18 the Eagles finally took control through an offensive mix highlighted by Brooks and Sukaj, earning the victory 30-20.
After battling back from almost certain defeat AU needed just 15 points to secure the match. Ricketts, who had played steadily through the match, exploded in the early stages of game five scoring three of four early points helping the Eagles to a 6-3 lead. From there Sukaj took over, scoring three kills in the final moments of play. Match point would come from a Ricketts smash off a feed from Stradling.
Stradling would finish the game with a team high 34 assists. The offensive attack was led by Sukaj's 27 kills with both Brooks and Ricketts each putting away 13. Ivana Cebakova led the defensive charge with 24 digs and Claire Recht once again impacted heavily on the outcome of the game, recording one solo block and six block assists.
The Eagles will return to action Tuesday, August 28, taking on Howard University in Bender Arena, at 7 p.m.
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