By Kyle Steiner, The Miami Student

The Miami University volleyball team defeated the visiting Furman Paladins in straight sets on Friday night in front of a packed Millett Hall crowd. 

The victory continues a torrid stretch for the RedHawks, who have now won seven consecutive games heading into Mid-American Conference play.

“The fans created a fun atmosphere that gave us a lot of energy to build off of,” junior libero Maeve McDonald said.

The RedHawks dominated from start to finish in a game that only lasted little over an hour. With the win, MU improves to 8-4 this season, while the Paladins drop to 3-7.

From the first set, it was clear that the ’Hawks were ready to play. Juniors right side hitters Katie Tomasic and hitter Olivia Rusek, as well as middle hitter Meredith Stutz, quickly set the tone, tallying two kills apiece to propel the squad to an early 9-3 lead.

The Paladins managed to stay in the game, pushing the score to 10-16. An ace by sophomore outside hitter Stela Kukoc out of a timeout halted any potential Furman rally, and Miami ran away with the set. A kill by Kukoc ended the set at 25-16, giving the ’Hawks a convincing first set victory.

Furman jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second set, but the Red and White easily overcame the deficit. Kukoc and Rusek heated up, tallying four and three kills, respectively, over the course of an 11-2 run that forced the Paladins to call a timeout.

Miami kept the pressure on, pushing the lead to 19-11. A kill and a block by Stutz helped the team finish off the set on a 6-1 run, giving the RedHawks a dominant 25-12 win.

The third set capped off the best all-around performance by MU of the season. Kills from Tomasic and senior middle hitter Paige Hill helped give the team an early 9-0 lead. Rusek added two more kills to help push the lead to 16-5.

The Paladins managed to get the game to 15-21, but a kill and an ace by Rusek propelled Miami to a 25-16 win, giving the Red and White yet another straight set victory.

For the match, MU held Furman to a .094 hitting percentage and forced them to commit 17 attack errors. McDonald led the RedHawks defensive effort through stellar back row play, tallying 20 digs for the night. Stutz established herself on the front row, finishing with three blocks.

The RedHawks finished the match with a sizzling .324 hitting percentage. They only committed nine attack errors for the entire match.

Junior setter Krista Brakauskas and sophomore setter Mackenzie Zielinski fed the hitters well all night, finishing the game with 22 and 18 assists, respectively.

Rusek led the Red and White attack, finishing the match with 13 kills. Kukoc and senior outside hitter Maris Below also contributed to the offensive onslaught as they totaled seven kills apiece.

“We have great team chemistry on and off the court. We have a lot of hunger to win the conference this year, especially since we have come so close the last two years,” Rusek said.

The team begins conference play Thursday when they travel to face Bowling Green.

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