Volleyball tests nationally-ranked UAA foes before falling in four to #17 NYU, #22 WashU

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)

WALTHAM, Mass. – Playing on their home turf of the Gosman Athletic Center, the Brandeis University volleyball team found the third set to be the charm today at the second of three University Athletic Association Round Robins. Taking on a pair of top-25-ranked opponents, the Judges fell to #17 NYU and #22 Washington University by a pair of 3-1 scores. Brandeis is now 5-11 overall on the season, 0-5 in the UAA. NYU defeated #5 Emory later in the day to improve to 14-0, 5-0 UAA, while Washington U. stands at 10-5, 2-3 UAA.

VS. NYU (19-25, 20-25, 25-23, 19-25)

In the day's opening match against NYU, the Violets never trailed in the first set, opening up an early 6-3 lead. The Judges hung around, remaining within 12-10 on a service ace by rookie Rita Lai (Sugar Land, Texas / Clements). NYU answered with runs of 5-2 and 4-1 to push back to 21-15. Brandeis countered with four in a row to close within 21-19, but the Violets responded with a four-point run of their own to close it out, 25-19. The visitors started strong again in the second set, this time taking a 9-4 lead that they pushed to 19-11. Brandeis was able to close within four points at 23-19, but NYU won two of the last three to finish things off.

In the third set, it was the Judges who finally got off to the hot start, winning four of the first five points. NYU eventually tied things up at 8-all, but Brandeis responded with 4-1 run to make it 13-9 after a Stephanie Borr (Westfield, N.J./Westfield) kill. NYU looked to answer their momentum with a 9-2 string that gave the Violets an 18-15 advantage after a block by Ella Spaethling and Abby Ausmus. Not to be denied, the Judges scored the match's next five points to go back ahead, 20-18, on an NYU attack error. The Violets would score the next two points to knot the set at 20. The teams would trade the next six points to see things tied at 23, but Brandeis got a kill from senior Kaisa Newberg (Reno, Nev. / Sage Ridge School) and a service ace from Kaitlyn Oh (Santa Clara, Calif. / Cupertino) to earn the third set, 25-23. Brandeis was excellent on defense in the third, holding NYU to an .049 hitting percentage after the Violets hit over .300 in the first two sets.

Determined not to go to a fifth set, NYU opened the fourth on a 7-1 run, and the Violets never trailed in taking it, 25-19, behind a stellar .419 hitting percentage.

For the match, Brandeis had a balanced attack, with three players recording 10 or more kills. First-year outside hitter Lara Verstovsek (Bellaire, Texas/Episcopal) led the way with 12 kills, reaching double figures for the seventh time this season. Borr added 10 kills, her second-highest total of the season, as did junior outside hitter Amelia Oppenheimer (The Woodlands, Texas/The Woodlands). Oppenheimer reached double digits for the first time this season and led the Judges with a .333 hitting percentage (10 K-3 E-21 TA). Verstovsek added three service aces to finish with a team-high 15 points. Sophomore setter Ines Grom-Mansenecal (Cincinnati, Ohio/Wyoming) netted her seventh double-double of the season with 33 assists, a match-high, and 12 digs, one behind Oh for team-high honors.

VS. WASHINGTON U. (26-28, 17-25, 25-22, 13-25)

Against Washington University, Brandeis fell behind early, but battled back. The Judges trailed, 6-2, only to tie things up at 8-all. The Bears jumped out again with a 10-3 run to go up, 18-11, a lead they eventually extended to 21-14. WashU eventually had six set points that Brandeis fended off. The Judges scored 10 of the next 13 points, tying the set at 24-all on an Oppenheimer kill. WashU got several side-outs to serve for the set again, eventually finishing things off on an Alaina Borer kill, 28-26. It was another 6-1 run to open the second set by WashU that that Judges couldn't overcome, as the Bears led by as many as nine points 23-14 before taking it, 25-17.

In the third set, WashU scored the first two points, but Brandeis scored the next four on Oh's serve, and the Judges never trailed again. Washington tied it up at 8-all, but Brandeis scored four of five points, with Newburg picking up two kills, to go back ahead, 12-9. The visitors tried to claw back, again tying things at 18-18, but an Oppenheimer kill got momentum back and Brandeis went on to secure the third set, 25-22. The Judges looked to ride that momentum by scoring the first seven points of the fourth set. Unfortunately, they would only score six more the rest of the way, as Washington closed out the match on a 16-0 run to take it, 25-13.

Verstovsek led Brandeis with another 10-kill performance to go with a service ace, eight digs and a block assist. Brandeis had five other players with between four and six kills, but couldn't get anyone else on track for a big offensive number. Lai and Oh each finished with two aces, while Lai also had two block assists. Grom-Mansenecal had 23 assists and nine digs, tied for team-high honors with Oh.

Brandeis will play its next three matches at home as well. The Judges meet UMass Boston on Tuesday evening at 7 p.m., followed by a Homecoming tri-match on October 9 against Babson and Endicott that starts at 11 a.m.