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Bulldogs drop two out of three in Utah

Photo: File photo

The Drake volleyball team started a new era in Tony Sunga’s first tournament as the Bulldogs head coach.

Drake opened the Crystal Inn Thunderbird Invitational with a 3-1 victory over host Southern Utah last Friday. The Bulldogs then dropped a 3-0 decision to Utah State and lost a 3-2 match to Boise State on Saturday.

Friday’s win marked the second-straight season that Drake won its season opener. Senior setter Caitlin Johnson had a double-double with 29 assists and 13 digs. Senior Mikayla Sims had a team-high 10 kills. Four Bulldogs notched double-digits in digs in the 25-22, 19-25, 25-23, 25-22 win. It was the first win as a collegiate head coach in Sunga’s career.

“We had some leaders step up when they needed to,” Sunga said in a Drake athletics press release. “We struggled a bit in the second set, but we picked it up when we needed to.”

Senior libero Erika Price had 14 digs, and juniors Sarah Madden and Jadranka Tramosljanin added 15 each. Drake had 72 digs as a team in the match.

“We played the way we thought we would,” Sunga said. “We came out with urgency and precision.”

The Bulldogs struggled against Utah State in the opener on Saturday. The Aggies earned a trip to the NCAA tournament last season, and it showed as Drake committed 31 attack errors compared to 14 by Utah State. Junior Whitney Westrum had nine kills and eight digs to lead the Bulldogs squad. The Aggies won the three games 25-20, 25-16 and 25-22.

After winning two out of the first three games against Boise State, Drake could not close the door on the Broncos. The Bulldogs lost the first game 17-25, then rallied to win the next two games 25-23. Boise State regrouped to take down Drake 19-25.

In an exciting fifth game, freshman Amanda Platte helped Drake even the score at 14 with a ferocious kill. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs committed two straight attacking errors to drop the game 16-14, and the Broncos captured the victory.

Johnson played one of the best matches in her career, registering 48 assists. One more would have given her a career high. Sims had a career-high 17 kills against the Broncos. Senior Michelle Reidy recorded 22 total kills on the day.

The Bulldogs are 1-2 heading into the Sheraton West Des Moines Drake Invitational this weekend. The team faces Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne at 7 p.m. on Friday, and then Wyoming at noon on Saturday. Sunga was the assistant coach at Wyoming the past three years before accepting the head coaching position at Drake. The team wraps up the invitational on Saturday against Wisconsin-Milwaukee at 7:30 p.m.

Sheraton West Des Moines Drake Invitational

Friday, Sept. 2

vs IPFW, Knapp Center, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 3

vs Wyoming, Knapp Center, 12 p.m.

vs UW-Milwaukee, Knapp Center, 7:30 p.m.

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