Volleyball: ‘Dogs find rhythm in New York

The Fresno State volleyball team won three of four games at the Jack Kaiser Volleyball Classic over the weekend in Queens, New York. The Bulldogs finished as the runners-up in the five-team tournament hosted by St. John’s University.

“I thought we finally kind of found a group that really wanted to work hard and play. When we had some highs, it was pretty impressive beating teams 25-6, 25-8, scores like that,” Fresno State head coach Lauren Netherby-Sewell said. “It was a really good trip for learning some lessons and kind of finding our groove a little bit.”

The Bulldogs opened the tournament on Friday with sweeps over St. Francis and Dartmouth.

Fresno State defeated the St. Francis Terriers in three sets, winning each by at least eight points. The Bulldogs’ hitting total against the Terriers was .468, overwhelmingly better than their previous season high of .286 heading into the tournament. Junior outside hitter Zana Bowens led the team with a double-double – 13 kills and 13 digs – and also had three of the Bulldogs’ nine aces in the game.

The Bulldogs won even more convincingly in Game 2 of the tournament over the Dartmouth Big Green. Fresno State opened with a 25-6 win in the first set, the largest margin of victory in a set in Netherby-Sewell’s seven seasons as head coach. The Bulldogs closed out the sweep with 25-10 and 25-14 victories. Dartmouth entered the tournament with a record of 4-0 and defeated the eventual tournament champion St. John’s Red Storm earlier on Friday.

Fresno State split its two games versus New Hampshire and St. John’s on Saturday.

The ‘Dogs opened Day 2 of the tournament by narrowly dropping their first set of the weekend to the New Hampshire Wildcats by a score of 25-23. Fresno State got right back into its rhythm in Set 2 with another impressive margin of victory, taking the second set 25-8 and tying the match 1-1. The ‘Dogs kept the momentum rolling by taking the next two sets 25-16 and 25-17 for their third-straight victory. Junior setter Jalena Jovanovic led the Bulldogs with 46 assists and 17 digs.

The Bulldogs finished the tournament against the Red Storm with the Jack Kaiser Volleyball Classic title on the line. St. John’s took control early, topping the ‘Dogs 25-19 and 25-18. Fresno State answered and avoided getting swept with a 25-23 win in the third set, but the Red Storm clinched the tournament title with a 25-19 win in the fourth set to defeat the Bulldogs 3-1.

Two Bulldogs were named to the eight-player all-tournament team: sophomore Maggie Eppright and redshirt freshman Haylee Roberts. Eppright currently leads the team in digs with 3.58 per set. While not named to the all-tournament team, Bowens continued her strong start to the season, as she continues to lead the team in kills, aces and points.

Fresno State improves to 5-6 on the season after the 3-1 showing at this weekend’s tournament. The team next heads to the Roadrunner Classic in Bakersfield which will include Cal State Bakersfield, Oregon State and Long Beach State. It will be the Bulldogs’ fourth-straight road trip this season before returning to the Save Mart Center for an exhibition matchup versus Fresno Pacific on Sept. 23.

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