Sept. 20, 2008
Milwaukee, Wisc. - The American University volleyball team opened play in the Marquette Cheese Bowl on Saturday with a hard fought 3-1 loss to No. 13 Wisconsin. Senior Rubena Sukaj recorded 16 kills in the match and set a new AU record for career kills.
"I thought we battled pretty well against a really good team in Wisconsin this afternoon," Head Coach Barry Goldberg said. "As the match went along we gained confidence and began to hit the ball a little better. The third set was a very hard fought win for us and then we played right with them for the first half of the fourth set. I think in the end though they just played a little harder than we did."
Wisconsin (9-1) took the match by set scores of 25-21, 25-14, 25-23, 25-18. The Eagles (5-5) and Wisconsin traded the lead back-and-forth for most of set one as the lead changed hands seven times. In the end it was the Badgers who pulled away though as they broke a 15-all tie to take an 18-15 lead. After an AU timeout Wisconsin extended its lead to 21-15 but the Eagles refused to go quietly as they quickly cut the lead to three points, 21-18. Wisconsin's advantage proved to be too much for AU to overcome however as the Badgers recorded set point, 25-21. Five different Eagles recorded a kill in the set but seven forced errors gave Wisconsin the advantage.
American could not find a rhythm in the second set and fell behind earlier, 11-6. The Eagles pulled back to within two points, 13-11, but failed to get any closer as Wisconsin quickly moved its lead back up to five points, 17-12. The Badgers continued their strong play down the stretch and earned set point, 25-14. Senior Christina Nash dished out 11 assists in the second set to lead American to a .308 hitting percentage.
The third set looked to be all Wisconsin as the Badgers jumped out to a 7-1 lead to open the frame. Never backing down, the Eagles methodically chipped away at the lead and finally tied the score at 14 apiece. AU took its first lead in the set on the very next play, 15-14, and extended its advantage to as many as three, 17-14, after a Wisconsin timeout. The Badgers answered American's run by tying the score at 19, beginning a series of five tie scores and four lead changes. It was the Eagles who broke the final tie, 23-23, by forcing a Wisconsin attack error and earned their first set point, 25-23, off a Nash service ace. Sukaj led all scorers with five kills and two aces in the frame and sophomore Cassandra Rickets added four kills.
Continuing the trend from the third set, the fourth set began with five lead changes and six tie scores. In this set it was the Badgers however who broke the final tie, 10-10, and took a three point lead, 14-11, to force an AU timeout. The stoppage of play was not enough to halt Wisconsin's momentum though as it extended its lead to as many six, 19-13, and finally earned match-point, 25-18.
Sukaj led all scorers with 16 kills and five aces. On her tenth kill of the afternoon Sukaj passed former AU great Karla Kucerkova, '04, as American University's all-time kills leader. Sukaj now has 1,772 career kills and is also the Patriot League's career kills leader as well as the school and conference career record holder in aces.
"I'd like to congratulate Rubena on reaching another milestone in her career," Coach Goldberg said. "She has played a big role on each of our teams since her freshman year and has been a tremendous asset to our program. She is extremely talented and extremely hard working and she is very deserving of this record."
Nash recorded 39 assists, seven kills and seven digs in the match. Freshman Rebecca Heath totaled 11 kills as AU's second-leading scorer and junior Ivana Cebakova anchored the defense with 13 digs. Cebakova now needs 11 digs to pass Theresa Flynn's, '92, mark of 987 for second all-time at AU.
The Eagles will now face host Marquette in the second round of the Cheese Bowl later this evening at 7 p.m. Live stats from the match will be available by clicking here.