Joe Gorby, Sports Information Director
JOLIET – The 2020 season for the University of St. Francis women’s volleyball team opened Monday night as the Saints fell 3-1 (25-14, 18-25, 25-15, 25-22) to Clarke (Iowa) in non-conference match play at USF’s Sullivan Center.
The Saints, who were playing in their first match since last November, are presently 0-1 overall for the season while Clarke evened its overall record to 6-6 this fall as the Pride benefitted from having played 11 outings prior this campaign to the matchup.
Clarke won the opening set as the Pride would produce a 14-6 kills advantage and outhit the Saints .273 to -.030. However, USF came back to knot the match up at one-all in set two by turning in a .086 hitting percentage with seven kills while forcing CU into a -.043 attack percentage. In set three, Clarke managed to hit at a .184 clip with 14 kills compared to five in 34 attempts for the Saints, who finished at -.059. The fourth and final set proved to be the most efficient set for both teams as USF posted a .242 hit percentage with 14 kills in 33 hitting opportunities while Clarke hammered 14 kills in 29 attempts for a .448 attack percentage.
For the match, Clarke totaled eight service aces while USF served up four aces. Defensively, the Pride garnered 67 digs while the Saints finished with 54 total.
Outside hitters Taylor Valant (SR/St. Anne, Ill.) and Brooklyn Withey (SR/Lapeer, Mich.) led USF with seven kills apiece while middle hitters Lauren Stefanski (SR/Plainfield, Ill.) and Stephanie Woods (JR/Westchester, Ill.) contributed six kills each to pace the Saints’ offense, which registered 32 team kills and a .059 hitting percentage. Setter Alexis Engst (JR/Bloomington, Ill.) supplied 16 assists while on the defensive side, defensive specialists Katie Szakacs (SR/Munster, Ind.) and Gabby Paelmo (JR/Schaumburg, Ill.) both reached double figures in digs with 13 and 10 total, respectively. At the net, outside hitter Desiree Anderson (FR/Joliet, Ill.) and Lauren Stefanskieach recorded six block assists as the pair combined for 12 of the squad’s 16-team output. Stephanie Woods added one block solo with two block assists while middle hitter-right side Peyton Baird (SO/Mendota, Ill.) notched two block assists as the Saints generated nine team blocks to the Pride’s four team total.
Kelsi Chambers’ match-high 14 kills led three Clarke players in double figures as Amber Cooklsey, who also had four service aces, and Megan Pressgrove both tallied 11 apiece. The Pride, who turned in a .184 attack percentage and accumulated 52 team kills, received a match-best 26 assists from Alana Cooksley. Amber Cooksley managed to post a double-double with a match-leading 16 digs to go with her 11 kills.
The Saints will next travel to Fort Wayne, Ind., this Saturday (Oct. 17) to compete in the Indiana Tech Triangular at IIT’s Schaefer Center. USF opens action versus the Rochester (Mich.) Warrriors at 2:30 p.m. (ET) before going up against the host Indiana Tech Warriors in a 6 p.m. (ET) tilt.