Photo by Luke Zayas/True To The Cru
BELTON- For the third straight season, UMHB volleyball’s regular season began with a sweep. But it did not come easily.
Entering the third–and final–set of Friday morning’s 3-0 (25-17, 25-15, 25-18) victory for the Crusaders over Concordia College (MN), UMHB carried plenty of momentum. The second set of the match had been won 25-15, with an impressive 13-1 run giving the Cru plenty of confidence. Then, after falling behind 15-9, Concordia responded with a run of its own in the third set.
The Cobbers, who ventured over 1,200 miles from Moorhead, Minnesota for the weekend tournament in Belton, began chipping away at UMHB’s lead. That six-point lead soon dwindled to a one as a three-point spurt from the Cobbers made it 19-18. They made it clear that they would not go down easily.
UMHB head coach Mark Pryor wasn’t surprised. Faith Radermacher, who played for him from 2014-2017 when he was the head coach at North Dakota, is the head coach of Concordia’s program. And she is a tough competitor.
“For us, the biggest thing is being grateful that they pushed us,” Pryor said. “I enjoy the fact that I had to call a timeout. We actually had to be in the moment. And the more times we’re in the moment and successful, it’s going to help us.”
Coming out of the timeout with renewed confidence, the Cru went to work, and scored the next six points of the match, closing the sweep with a 25-18 victory in the third set. The final point was recorded on a Concordia attack error, with Emily Millikan on the serve.
Millikan, a middle blocker and true freshman from Round Rock, Texas, was one of a handful of first-year players who finished the opening match of the season with a memorable performance. With a versatile skill set, as Pryor noted following the match, Millikan entered in the second set and played a key role in UMHB securing the sweep.
“She came in during the second set, made a mistake, and we got onto her a little bit about it,” Pryor said. “But she came back in the third set, and made some amazing plays. We stuck her back there to serve, and usually middles don’t serve, or if they do, they don’t play a ton of defense. [But] she was serving bullets, and made some great digs [on defense].”
Fellow freshman Kendall Harrington led the Crusaders in assists, tallying 18, and added six kills on 20 attacks. Natalie Hughes also saw action in all three sets, recording a pair of kills as well as a block in her debut.
“I think our mindset with our freshmen this year is a little different,” Pryor noted. “We have some kids that understand, ‘I can contribute. I don’t have to do a ton. I just have to do my job.’ And some of our kids who didn’t see the court much, they’re adding massive value by the things they’re doing outside the lines; by being great teammates, being vocal, being supportive and insightful.”
The upperclassmen also stood out, as senior Hannah Frasca led the way in the scoring attack, with her 11 kills finishing as a team-best. Senior Sam Sommerfeld donned the libero jersey for the first time in her career, playing libero in the third set. She finished with three assists, six digs, and a service ace,
Sophomores Dravyn Hurd, named to the ASC’s Preseason “Players to Watch” List, and Katie Warden, also tallied seven kills, along with four block assists.
“[I was glad to see her] take that next step physically as far as getting up and putting the ball away,” Pryor added, when mentioning Hurd’s performance.
If there is one thing that sets this team apart, it lies within the team chemistry that comes from bringing back a number of key returners, such as Frasca, Warden, Hurd, and Sommerfield, along with several freshmen who have a chance to contribute right away. It is a squad that works in sync, and does not dwell too much on the challenges at hand.
“I like where we are beginning from, and I genuinely like the vibe of the team,” Pryor said. “They are fun kids, and even when we have bad practices, it is easy to laugh about it afterwards. We don’t take ourselves so seriously. That helps out some.”
- Hannah Frasca’s 11 kills marked the fourth straight match that she has recorded double-digits in kills, dating back to the final three games of the 2022 season.
- The senior from Spring, Texas now has 716 career kills. Friday’s match marked the first time since her freshman year that Frasca tallied 10+ kills in a season opener.
- In addition to her 11 kills, Frasca also had a team-best 10 digs in the match. It was the 35th time in her UMHB career that she recorded a double-double in kills and digs.
- Kendall Harrington’s 18 assists is the most assists in a season opener by a freshman since 2012, when Shelby Prather tallied 37 in a 3-0 win over Centenary to begin the year.
- Friday’s win marked the 12th straight season-opening win for The Cru, dating back to the sweep of Centenary in 2012.
- Within the last 10 years, six of UMHB’s season-openers have resulted in sweeps.
- Prior to Friday’s match, UMHB had never faced Concordia College (MN). Per a review of UMHB’s all-time program opponent history, Concordia was the 105th opponent the Crusaders have played against within its tenure in NCAA D-III.
UMHB plays two more matches in Belton on the weekend, facing Simpson College at 6 p.m. Friday before battling Schreiner at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. That is followed by a road trip from Sept. 8-9 in Memphis, Tennessee, where UMHB is scheduled to play Austin College, Rhodes, Lyon, and Bethel (TN).