Volleyball pushes CMU to five, falls to #5 Emory in 3 on UAA opening day

Lara Verstovsek '25 celebrates winning a point earlier this season (Photo by Sportspix.com / Mike Tureski)
Lara Verstovsek '25 celebrates winning a point earlier this season (Photo by Sportspix.com / Mike Tureski)

CHICAGO – In their first two University Athletic Association contests of the 2021 season, the Brandeis University volleyball team rallied from two sets down to force a fifth set before falling to Carnegie Mellon, 3-2, before dropping a 3-0 decision to Emory, the #5 team in the latest AVCA Division III poll. The Judges now sit at 4-6 overall on the season, 0-1 in the UAA. The matches were played at the University of Chicago.

VS. CARNEGIE MELLON (13-25, 20-25, 25-23, 25-23, 5-15)

In the opening two sets, Carnegie Mellon held Brandeis to a negative hitting percentage in winning, 25-13, 25-20. The Judges bounced back in the third and fourth sets, hitting .214 in the third and .154 in the fourth, winning each by a 25-23 score.

Brandeis trailed 22-21 in the third, but a service error by CMU tied the game and sophomore libero Ella Pereira (Redondo Beach, Calif./Rolling Hills Prep) had back-to-back service aces to get the Judges to set point. Pereira couldn't serve it out, committing an error, but Brandeis forced the Tartans into an attacking error to take the third. In the fourth, Brandeis took an early 4-2 lead. They were still ahead, 11-9, when they went on a 6-1 run that featured three kills by first-year outside hitter Lara Verstovsek (Bellaire, Texas/Episcopal), the last of which made it 17-10. The Judges maintained the seven-point lead when consecutive kills by junior OH Amelia Oppenheimer (The Woodlands, Texas/The Woodlands) made it 21-14, but CMU rallied with a 7-2 run of their own to tie the set at 23-23. Brandeis responded when senior outside hitter Stephanie Borr (Westfield, N.J./Westfield) converted back-to-back kills to close out the set and force the fifth. After the Tartans won the first point of the fifth, Borr served the next four points to put the Judges ahead by three. Unfortunately for the Judges, CMU's Laura Reichard served 12 points in a row to take a 13-4 lead and the Tartans closed it out, 15-5.

Verstovsek had an outstanding match for the Judges. She tied for match-high honors with 13 kills, six of which came in the fourth set. She also recorded 22 digs, a career- and match-high, that gave her her fourth double-double of the season. After adding a career-high seven blocks, Verstovsek was just shy of her first career triple-double. Offensive, senior middle blocker Kaisa Newberg (Reno, Nev./Sage Ridge School) added nine kills and Borr had seven. First-year middle hitter Rita Lai (Sugar Land, Texas/Clements) had eight blocks, a career-best, while Pereira tied with Verstovsek and one CMU player for match-high honors with 22 digs. Sophomore setter Ines Grom-Mansenecal (Cincinnati, Ohio/Wyoming) added 27 assists.

VS. EMORY (19-25, 14-25, 14-25)

Brandeis got off to a hot start against Emory, who also played five sets in their UAA opener against Case Western Reserve. After Borr recorded back-to-back kills, the Judges owned a 12-7 lead and Emory called timeout. The Eagles responded, going on a 7-0 run on the serve of Sarah Luong that made it 14-12 in favor of EU. The Judges were unable to recover, as Emory closed on a 5-1 run, winning it 25-19 after a Kaisa Newberg kill closed the Judges with 20-18.  The Eagles never trailed in the second set, winning 25-14. Brandeis had a brief 9-8 lead in the third after back-to-back blocks by senior Emerson White (Lexington, Ky. / Sayre) and Verstovsek, but Emory answered with a 5-0 run and never looked back en route to another 25-14 win.

Newberg led the Judges in this one, recording a team-high 10 kills and making just one error in 15 attempts for a .533 hitting percentage, the team's top performance of the season. Newberg also had a match-high four block assists. Pereira led Brandeis with 14 digs, while Grom-Mansenecal had 23 assists.

Brandeis is back in action tomorrow with their third UAA match of the season against Case Western Reserve University, coached by Karen Farrell '93.