Following a short five-month hiatus, the Omaha volleyball team got their 2021 season started at the Cyclone Challenge in Ames, Iowa. After being swept by Iowa State to open the weekend, the Mavericks responded with a 3-0 sweep over the Drake Bulldogs to pick up their first win of the season.
Omaha took the first set 25-10 and followed it up with a 25-17 win in both the second and third sets. With the win, Omaha finished the first weekend of play at 1-1.
ISU used a five-point run for an early 6-2 cushion, and at one point held a 13-4 lead in the first set of Friday’s match. The Cyclones used another 6-2 run later in the opening set to clinch it, 25-11. Omaha actually struck first in set two, but after trading points back-and-forth early, ISU strung together two separate runs en route to a 25-16 win.
The final set was the closest of the day, as it was deadlocked 10-10 at one point. Once again though, the Cyclones pulled away. ISU used four straight kills to win the match, 25-19, and secure the sweep.
Sunday was a different story. After seeing Drake take the first two points of the first set, the Mavericks responded with a 7-0 rally and finished the set with an 11-1 run to win by a 25-10 final. Three different Mavericks tallied a kill in that run while Sami Clarkson led the way with back-to-back aces. Clarkson finished the weekend with 69 assists.
Both teams traded points for most of set two, but the Mavericks eventually found their groove and pulled away. The Mavericks finished out the set and the 25-17 win with a kill from Marriah Buss and an ace from Shayla McCormick. Omaha finished the match with seven aces.
Similar to the ISU match, set three proved to be the tightest of the day.
The Mavericks grabbed an early 7-2 lead, but the Bulldogs wouldn’t go down without a fight. Drake trailed by just two points four different times in the set. Omaha used a 3-0 run, started by a Rachel Fairbanks kill, and capitalized on three straight Drake errors to complete a sweep of their own.
Fairbanks led the Mavericks with 11 kills on Sunday and had 23 on the weekend. She and Clarkson were both named to the Cyclone Challenge All-Tournament team.
As a team, Omaha recorded double-digit kills in every set and had 75 across the two matches. The Mavericks also combined for 93 digs, including 32 from Claire Mountjoy. She is now just 88 digs behind the program’s all-time career leader. Sadie Limback also recorded 18 kills on the weekend.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier, as a match with No. 4 Nebraska is on deck. The Mavericks will play three times in the Ameritas Players Challenge in Lincoln. They’ll face Arizona State and Georgia to close out the challenge.