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Bulldogs lose in straight sets in MVC opener at the Creighton Classic

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Photo: File photo

Drake dropped its Missouri Valley Conference opener last Friday at the Creighton Classic, but rebounded to capture one win in two matches on Saturday.

The Bulldogs were swept in three sets by the host Bluejays (22-25, 18-25, 24-26) in the team’s first MVC match of the season. The next day UAB dealt Drake another three-set loss (21-25, 18-25, 14-25), but the Bulldogs edged McNeese State in five sets (25-15, 25-18, 24-26, 19-25, 15-10) in the finale of the tournament.

Drake is now 4-10 on the year and 0-1 in the Valley.

Junior Whitney Westrum recorded her third double-double of the season, tallying 10 kills and 10 digs against the Bluejays. Creighton outhit Drake .299 to .140. Bluejay setter Megan Bober had 12 kills, 20 assists and 18 digs to notch her second triple-double of the season. Bober is a preseason first team All-MVC honoree.

Junior Bentley Mancini had nine kills in the match. Drake held a 23-20 lead in the final set but was outscored 6-1 as Creighton finished off the sweep.

Westrum and junior Emily Heffernen registered seven kills each against UAB. Westrum and junior transfer Jadranka Tramosljanin had 10 digs each. The Blazers outhit the Bulldogs .190 to .049.

Senior setter Caitlin Johnson turned in a career-best performance in a thrilling match against McNeese State. Johnson had 67 assists, destroying her previous career high of 44 assists set last year at Evansville. For her efforts, Johnson earned Creighton Classic All-Tournament honors.

Tramosljanin recorded her first double-double as a Bulldog with a career-high 17 kills and 20 digs. Westrum added another double-double with 19 kills and 20 digs. Senior Michelle Reidy had 19 kills in the match and eight total blocks on the day.

Johnson now has 503 assists this season, which is good for second in the MVC. UAB took down Creighton 3-1 in the tournament championship game.

Westrum said that even though the team lost plenty of senior leaders before this season, the familiarity with each player’s position has helped.

“We’ve made a good transition,” Westrum said. “We still have the same middle hitters. (Senior) Erika Price is the libero, and she was the (defensive specialist).”

Westrum added that the outside hitters are different this season, including the arrival of Tramosljanin. The transfer from Wyoming has been a pivotal addition to Drake’s attacking game this season.

Head coach Tony Sunga is preparing the squad as it enters MVC season. It will be Sunga’s first conference season as head coach, but he said he is confident and experienced in his coaching ability to carry Drake through the difficult Missouri Valley Conference.

“The floor part is very normal for me,” Sunga said.

The Bulldogs travel to Carbondale, Ill., to take on Southern Illinois this Friday. The team continues its road trip against Evansville on Saturday. The team’s first home conference game is Sept. 30, when Drake hosts Indiana State.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

FRIDAY, SEPT. 23
@ Southern Illinois

SATURDAY, SEPT. 24
@ Evansville

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