DALLAS, Pa. – The Hiram College men's volleyball team, and head coach Kyle Mars, could not have asked for a better start to the Terrier program, as Hiram captured a pair of wins in straight sets in their inaugural day of competition on Friday evening.
Hiram took down both Neumann University and The College of St. Elizabeth by 3-0 scores on the first day of the Cougar Invitational, hosted by Misericordia University.
Coach Mars believed day one would be a solid benchmark out of his team's first official preseason camp, as both the Knights and Eagles were also sporting first-year programs during the 2018 season. The Terriers took care of business in both matches, setting down the Knights by scores of 25-10, 25-16, 30-28 and the Eagles by set scores of 25-15, 28-26, 25-14.
"Having a couple of a straight-set victories against other teams that are also new validates how hard we have been working throughout the early portion of the season," remarked Mars. "It was a really good showing and I think it proved to the players that if we prepare the right way, good things will happen."
Defensively, Hiram frustrated the opposing offenses, holding both teams to a low hitting percentage while averaging 10.1 digs over the first two matches.
In their first match against Neumann, the Terriers came out swinging early, hitting .562 in the set to win 25-10. Hiram opened the game on a 7-1 run, getting kills from Alex Andrzejewski and Cory Fischer, as well as a kill and an ace from Cole Filer.
The advantage would grow to as many as 15 on another kill from Andrzejewski before fellow captain Jake Lininger finished off the set with kill.
Down 3-2 in the second set, Hiram once again used a 7-0 run to surge ahead. This time, two kills from Grant Phalen served as the catalyst before a Colton DeForest kill pushed the advantage to 9-3. Once again the advantage would grow to as many as 11 before DeForest finished off the set 25-16.
The third set would require extra points to put the Knights away. With Hiram holding a 24-21 advantage, a few miscues kept Neumann alive. However, the Terriers refusal to quit, as well as five kills from Justin English, gave Hiram the third set 30-28, and the three-set win.
The Terriers showed balance on the offensive end, with seven different players totaling at least three kills. Cole Filer and Henry Schwendler each tallied six to lead the way from the middle, while setter Brennan Walentschak posted 15 assists.
"We have been teaching our setters to establish the middle on the onset and get things going," remarked Mars. "Tonight, that helped us get the outsides involved and kept the blockers on the other side of the net guessing."
Avoiding any sort of let down in the second match, the Terriers once again dispatched their opponent in straight sets, taking a 10-point win in the opening game.
The Terriers once again never trailed in the opener, running out to a 5-2 lead thanks to a kill and a pair of aces from Andrzejewski.
The Knights would close the gap to three (9-6) before a 7-0 run opened the 10-point advantage. Brent Bierek served all seven points in the run, tallying two aces in the run.
Hiram would never trail in the set as Andrew Gard finished off game one with a kill, giving Hiram the 25-15 set win.
The Terrier would face adversity for the first time in the second set, with the Eagles running a lead to 14-7. In what seemed like a theme for Hiram, they then responded with a 7-0 run.
Once again with Bierek serving, he added another ace, while Filer tallied a pair of kills, knotting the game at 14-14.
The two sides would see saw throughout the remainder of the set, with Hiram still trailing 25-24 in the late stages. The Terriers would continue to fight, eventually taking the 28-26 set win on a pair of kills from Fischer.
Hiram would ride that momentum into the third set, with Bierek once again leading the charge. After snagging a kill for the first point of the set, the freshman rattled off three-straight aces in a 5-0 run. The Terriers never trailed, opening the advantage to as many as 12 (19-7) before running away with the win.
Bierek set a high standard in just his second-career game, posting eight service aces in the match with the Eagles. A single-game mark which could stand for years to come.
"Brent's background in playing beach volleyball serves him well on the serving line," commented Mars on his freshman. "He does a really good job of doing exactly what he practices and it showed this evening."
To go along with his eight aces, Bierek added six kills. He was one of five players with at least four, led by Andrzejewski's nine. Filer also added six, while Fischer totaled five and Gard, four. Lininger led the offense with 21 assists.
After a successful first day, the Terriers will be back in action tomorrow as they take on the host Cougars of Misericordia at 11 a.m. They will then take on Penn State – Altoona at 1 p.m.