Wildcats roll to straight-set win in regional opener


ST. PAUL, Minn. — Senior outside hitter Kelsie Cada recorded a match-high 14 kills with eight digs and four service aces to power third-ranked Wayne State College past No. 15 Minnesota Duluth Thursday in the opening round of the NCAA Central Region Volleyball Tournament, winning 25-20, 25-15, 25-21. 

The opening set saw a close battle early until the second-seeded Wildcats used a five-point scoring spree to get control of the set.
With the score tied at 11-11, Wayne State reeled off five straight points, culminated by a Cada service ace, giving the Wildcats their biggest lead of the set. Duluth closed within one at 20-19, but a kill by Channatee Robles and a block by Taya Beller and Taylor Bunjer put the momentum back on the Wayne State side as they finished off the set.

Robles had five kills in the opening set to pace Wayne State, followed by Cada with three kills, four digs and an ace. Havyn Heinz had two service aces in the set for WSC that featured four total aces. 

In the second set, the Wildcat used a pair of scoring runs to take control of the set early. With Duluth leading 4-3 early, WSC scored six straight points thanks to a pair of Cada kills and a pair of Bulldog attack errors. Another scoring run of six straight points, highlighted by a trio of Maggie Brahmer kills and Cada service ace, gave the Wildcats a commanding 15-6 lead. 

WSC pushed the lead to 22-12 and closed the set win with a block by Beller and Bunjer to take the 2-0 advantage. The Wildcats posted a .367 hitting percentage in the set with 15 kills while holding UMD to a .088 hitting percentage.  Brahmer and Cada each had five kills in the set while Jordan McCormick added seven digs. 

The third set saw 10 ties and five lead changes early between the two teams, but Wayne State surged late in the set to erase a 14-12 deficit as the Wildcats closed out the match.

Trailing 14-12 at the midway point of the third set, WSC scored seven straight points, highlighted by a pair of Cada kills and two Wildcat blocks for a 19-14 advantage. Duluth had one final rally and got within 23-20, but the 'Cats closed the set with kills from Cada and Robles to end the match.

Cada and Brahmer powered the Wildvats in the third set with Cada producing six kills on 11 swings with Brahmer adding five kills on 10 swings. Heinz had nine digs in the final set. 

Wayne State finished the match hitting .346 compared to .197 for Bulldogs. The Wildcats had one more kill than UMD (43-42) and forced 17 UMD errors with WSC recording just six. WSC held a 7-4 edge in blocks and had seven service aces to six for UMD.   

Cada's 14 kills led the Wildcats. She also had eight digs and four service aces.  Brahmer also hit double figures kills with 10 while Robles had eight kills and Beller six. Beller was credited with six blocks while libero Jordan McCormick had a match-high 19 digs. Heinz finished with 12 digs to go with two aces. Senior setter Rachel Walker handed out 35 set assists.

The Wildcats improve to 29-2 on the season and now face in-state rival Nebraska-Kearney in the semifinals Friday at 5 p.m. The Lopers beat Southwest Minnesota State 19-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-21 in their first-round match. s