Crusaders Battle to Bitter End in Loss on Senior Day

Senior Kelly Leonard. (Jeff Mills photo).
Senior Kelly Leonard. (Jeff Mills photo).

COLUMBUS, Ohio – There was no doubt that the Capital University volleyball team was playing for its seniors on Saturday, displaying some of its best play of the season against John Carroll University. In a tooth-and-nail contest, the Blue Streaks battled from behind and outlast the Crusaders in a five-set win on Saturday (21-25, 28-26, 18-25, 25-20, 15-12).  

In the decisive fifth set, John Carroll (20-5 overall, 6-1 OAC) had carried over some of its momentum from a five-point win from the previous set. After Capital jumped up 2-0 early, the Blue Streaks rattled off five of the next six points to regain its advantage. Only after the game was tied 11-11 did they break away one final time when Leah Switalski recorded a kill to turn the ball over to Mena Afsarifard on the service line. John Carroll then scored three of the next four points and ended the game when Sarah Orlandi put down the final kill.

Capital had all the momentum early in the contest and took away a 25-21 first-set win after Courtney McCracken, LeAnna Cotton, and Mona Ratliff all put down four kills in the opening frame to lead the team.

The second set carried the same amount of steam with the Crusaders, though tied 26-26 Switalski turned the tide once more to help the Blue Streaks tie the game at a set apiece.

Sets three and four went back-and-forth, both in score and in the winners of each frame. Capital held John Carroll to just a .024 hit percentage in the third frame to take a 25-18 decision, easily. But the fourth is where the Blue Streaks picked up their game and reversed their fortunes by hitting .343 in the following set, which started their comeback.

Capital was led offensively by Ratliff, who tallied 18 kills on 41 attempts, good for a .268 hit percentage on the day. Two of her teammates joined her in double digits, McCracken with 13 and Kristin Bender with 12. Katie Weilbacher ended the afternoon with 41 assists and 12 digs for a double-double.

Leonard and Cotton served as the day's first stars by being highlighted for their contributions toward the program and University on its Senior Day.

Leonard entered the match with 1,467 digs and after posting 28 in Saturday's match is just five away from 1,500 in her career. She is also just 29 digs away from cracking the top-5 in Capital's record book.

Cotton put down seven kills on 39 attempts while adding three block assists in the loss.

With the loss, Capital drops to eighth place in the Ohio Athletic Conference standings with two matches left to play in the regular season. The top eight teams in the conference standings will advance to the OAC Tournament.

The Crusaders will close out the regular season with two road games, the first at Heidelberg University on Tuesday, Oct. 28, at 7 p.m. They will close the regular season at Baldwin Wallace on Nov. 1.