The LMU women’s volleyball team defeated Duke before falling the second round to No. 1 Stanford in the NCAA Tournament.
The Lions' tournament appearance, which was the 14th in program history, opened on Friday at Maples Pavilion in Palo Alto, California, with a solid straight-sets win over Duke, 25-16, 25-22, 25-16. The Lions got off to a strong start and never looked back, holding off several Duke runs and pulling away at the end of each set.
The Lions were led by junior setter Tess Reid, who had 35 assists, and senior opposite Sara Kovac, who had 22 kills, both of which were team highs. Head coach Aaron Mansfield praised the performances of both players.
“Sara Kovac has been on fire,” Mansfield said. “Tess has a really good sense for the game ... she’s really locked in to our team. [She] recognized that Sara was having a really good match and was getting her the ball.”
LMU dominated the first set, recording advantages in kills, digs, blocks and assists. Duke was much more competitive in the second set thanks to strong play from freshman middle blocker/outside hitter Ade Owokoniran. However, the Lions pulled out ahead thanks to eight kills from Kovac, and maintained their advantage with more blocks and kills despite an improved effort by Duke. The third set was a team effort for LMU, with sophomore outside hitter Meredith Teague and junior outside hitter Savannah Slattery among those recording key kills.
Another key to the win was the team’s defense. Duke failed to reach an attack percentage of .200 in any set.
“Our [blockers] did a nice job of being in the right spot,” Mansfield said. “Our blockers just did their job and we followed the scouting report.”
LMU advanced to play No. 1 overall seed, Stanford on Saturday, playing again at Maples Pavilion, where they lost in straight sets, 25-20, 25-15, 25-17. Reid and Kovac led the team again, with Reid recording 30 assists and Kovac with 12 kills, but the Lions were unable to overcome a strong offensive performance by a terrific Stanford team. The Lions finished the season (21-10) after advancing to their 14th NCAA tournament in school history and their first since advancing to the Sweet Sixteen in 2015.