The Wildcats kicked off a big weekend of volleyball action on Friday afternoon when they took on Haskell Indian Nations University in an A.I.I. conference matchup between the two programs.
Johnson & Wales set the tone early in the first set against Haskell, jumping out to a 15-4 lead. The 'Cats used a strong attack and big defense to secure the 25-11 win while hitting .593 in the set with 17 team kills. In the second set the Indians started out stronger but stalled midway through the set. The 'Cats took advantage and went on a 7-2 run on their way to a 25-18 victory.
In the third set, Haskell found another level defensively and came up with big time stops to shut down the soaring 'Cats offense. Haskell rolled to a 25-19 win to keep themselves in the contest. After a back and forth start to the fourth, the 'Cats found some momentum and dialed up an 8-1 run to lead 22-14. HINU added a few points late but Johnson & Wales held on for the 25-17 win.
Danielle Giannini (Morrison, Colo.) had a monstrous .611 attack percentage in the match with 11 kills and zero errors on 18 attempts. Kelley McLain (Simi Valley, Calif.) led the squad with 12 kills and Katie Malachinski (Stevensville, Mont.) added 11 kills. Cassandra Lacanilao (Oxnard, Calif.) led a trio of players in double-digit digs with 20.
In the second match of the day, Johnson & Wales took on Graceland University in the evening's night cap. The visiting Yellowjackets found some momentum midway through the first set to take the opener 25-17 after a late push. In the second set, the 'Cats rallied from a five point deficit to take the 16-15 lead. The set closed with back and forth scoring that the Yellowjackets eventually took the 27-25 win.
In the third set, the Wildcats led 9-5 and never let Graceland put together much of a scoring run. JWU had momentum but the Yellowjackets made a late push before JWU secured the 25-17 win. In the fourth the Wildcats trailed by three early but came back to tie the set 7-7. Each scoring run one side would make the other would counter. The 'Cats capitalized on a set of late errors by GU and took the 25-23 win forcing a fifth set.
After trailing 8-5, Johnson & Wales regrouped and tied the set 8-8. The Yellowjackets went back up by two but JWU didn't give up, instead putting together a four point run to lead 14-12. GU tied the set at 14-14 but the 'Cats wouldn't surrender and capped the set with the final two points to rally from two set deficit to the 3-2 victory.
Giannani had another big game for Johnson & Wales with 13 kills and hit .522. McLain had 13 kills for the 'Cats and Erin Sosnowchik (Omaha, Neb.) added another 10. Hannah Christianson (Grass Valley, Calif.) had 22 digs and Ashlee Ruehs (Phoenix, Ariz.) finished with 37 assists.
Johnson & Wales will take on Central Christian College on Saturday at Noon in another A.I.I. matchup and close out the weekend at 6pm against Fort Hays State University.