By: Jake Shindel, Senior Editor and Courtney Ott, Deputy Sports Editor
Towson University’s Volleyball team defeated Chicago State University 3-1 after struggling to find their rhythm across the first set and a half. The team couldn’t get anything going early on, but was able to turn things around to win the game.
“It’s always associated with teams that they don’t think are the same caliber as them,” said Head Coach Don Metil. “When we play well, when we play our best volleyball, we’ve shown we can compete with the Power 5, Pittsburgh, and then there’s times like this where the effort, the execution, the attentiveness just isn’t there.”
Towson fell in the first set 26-24 but came back in the second set 34-32 and didn’t look back from there. The Tigers dominated on offense with 59 kills compared to 50 kills from Chicago State. The team’s 59 kills in the game stand tied for second most this season. Middle blocker Aayinde Smith led the team in kills with 15 followed by middle blocker Irbe Lazda with 14.
Strong defense was shown as well from Towson with 14 blocks, while Chicago State only recorded seven.
Towson opened the game with an 8-4 scoring run, but Chicago State responded with a run of their own, tying the game at 10 apiece. The teams traded points throughout the set, with Chicago State enjoying a 19-16 lead when Metil called a timeout.
A strong 3-0 run out of the timeout for the Tigers tied the game once again, with either team sitting at 19 points as Chicago State took a timeout. Chicago State came out of their own timeout strong, putting together a 3-1 lead late in the set. The Tigers took a timeout down 22-20 before tying the game at 22. As a result, Chicago State called a timeout.
Chicago State won the first set 26-24, with outside hitters Yanlis Feliz and Whitney Barnes racking up five kills each in the opening set for the Cougars. Lazda led Towson in kills after the first set with four, while outside hitter Fay Bakodimou had three kills.
The back-and-forth game continued into the second set, with Towson and Chicago State knotted at 13 around midway through the second set. Chicago State then took a three-point lead at 20-17 winding down to the end of the second set.
To tie the set at 21-21, Lazda slammed the ball into the ground on Chicago State’s side of the net. Both teams went back and forth, tying the set at 25-25, but a kill by Bakodimou put Towson in the lead 26-25. Two costly service errors made by Towson kept the set alive, but they eventually won the set 34-32. The set was the longest of the season to this point.
“We ran out of subs,” Metil said. “Sometimes the message just kind of paints itself out there. We were in something that we hardly ever practiced, and sometimes that’s the spark that’s needed.”
Lazda once again led the Tigers in kills with six in the second set, while Bakodimou and Smith were right behind her with five kills. Feliz and Barnes once again led Chicago State with five kills each.
The third set started similarly to the first two, with either team trading points. Eventually Towson worked up a 17-11 lead, and Chicago State called a timeout. Towards the end of the second set, the Tigers started to find their groove that seemed to be lost over the first two sets of the game. Towson won the second set 25-18, gaining and maintaining their lead throughout most of the set.
Towson came out on top after the third set with middle blocker Lydia Wiers collecting six kills and Smith following closely behind with five kills. Smith led the teams in blocks with four and a strong defensive effort was shown heading into the fourth set. Metil said he made some adjustments after the set.
“We put together a pretty extensive gameplan, and sometimes it’s just those reminders about what we need to do. We know everyone’s not going to retain everything, so it’s just constant feedback. We were able to get #2 Aayinde Smith going, and she’s such a dynamic athlete. We can set her a higher ball in the middle, and she can still be dynamic.
To start the fourth set, both teams were tied at 3-3 until Lazada recorded another kill against Chicago State to put the Tigers in the lead. The Tigers took a 12-6 lead, and they prevented Chicago State from getting within five points for the rest of the set. Towson pulled away at the end of the set, winning 25-14, and defeating Chicago State in four sets.
The team had a hit percentage of .268, and the team’s 55 assists rank as third most on the season thus far. The team’s seven receiving errors are tied for the most in a game by Towson this season.
The Tigers host an in-conference game at home against William & Mary on Saturday, Oct. 29, at 1 p.m.