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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Quinnipiac kills its way to home opener win against Niagara

The+Quinnipiac+volleyball+team+swept+its+first+home+match+of+the+2023+season+Saturday+afternoon.
Tyler Rinko
The Quinnipiac volleyball team swept its first home match of the 2023 season Saturday afternoon.

HAMDEN, Conn — The Quinnipiac volleyball team once again proved its dominance Saturday, sweeping the Niagara Purple Eagles 3-0 in the season’s home opener. 

The Bobcats entered their first MAAC game of the season with their heads held high, despite a 4-5 record in non-conference play. In classic fashion though, the team stepped up when it mattered. 

“The wins are great, but to see the team compete the way they did and get a win in that fashion, that’s all I could ever ask for, that’s what we want,” head coach Kyle Robinson said. “We got a great bunch of young women who are committed to the program in so many ways, it’s nice for them to be rewarded like this, to get a home opener win.” 

Quinnipiac fell behind at the beginning of the first set, giving out five points out of the first 10 Niagara scored due to service and attack errors. Slowly the Bobcats warmed up, and the game took a 180-degree turn under the wings of sophomore outside hitter Yagmur Gunes and freshman outside hitter Leilani-kai Giusta.   

Out of the 42 total kills the Bobcats amounted during the game, Yagmur Gunes led the team with 15, four of which were in the first set. Out of her total 36 attacks, she only committed 5 attack errors. The Turkish native just fell short of leading the team with 12 digs, behind graduate outside hitter Aryanah Diaz’s 13. 

Diaz, who still isn’t 100% recovered after her abb injury, played the position of a libero tonight. 

“We know Ary’s a good defender and a good passer and a good attacker,” Robinson said. “She’s played everything for us, so it’s easy to slide her in there.” 

Yagmur Gunes was the one to kill the last point of the first set, giving the Bobcats a 25-18 first-set victory and a 1-0 lead. 

The second set brought the game as close as it could’ve been. Combined, Giusta, Yagmur Gunes, junior opposite hitter Alexandra Tennon and senior middle blocker Lexi Morse managed to kill 14 points, only for the team to lose 13 additional points in attack and service errors. 

Giusta dropped five attack errors on her own at the beginning of the second set, before she got back to the performance level she’s recently been putting on, killing the last two points of the set to bring Quinnipiac’s lead to 2-0.  

“It’s like when you need to take a second to breathe and clear the noise,” Giusta said. “I was thinking ‘Oh, I need to keep the ball in’, but I should’ve been thinking ‘I need to score.’” 

“(Giusta) is a very good volleyball player,” Robinson added. “Our interactions on the court, even off the court, are very mature. Even though she’s not perfect, and we don’t believe in perfection, she’s still working through it and not letting the moment overtake her.”  

While the players that get the most winning points are the ones usually in the spotlight, the light as much to the blockers tonight. Morse and sophomore middle blocker Bailey Brashear ruled the net, combining to make eight out of the 10 recorded Bobcat blocks. 

“Lexi and Bailey have been doing a great job out there, making sure they hold themselves accountable to continuously be working to make our opponents have to pay attention to them,” Robinson said. “As much as they’re not scoring, they get a lot of attention, which is good for us.”

The third set just proved how dominant Quinnipiac can be. Even with Niagara’s best efforts, they stood no chance against the power the Bobcats showed, as they took the final set 25-14.

“Too many times when (the players) get talked about, it’s about how cute they are and what they’re wearing, instead of them being warriors, them being animals and savages out there,” Robinson said. “That’s what we try to breed, we want them to go and be savages, while still looking good.” 

This type of performance from the Bobcats only fueled the crowd that once again filled the bleachers at the Burt Kahn court. 

“It affected us a lot,” sophomore setter Damla Gunes said regarding the crowd tonight. “When we were down, we just looked at each other and said: ‘For each other, for this crowd, for our home.’”

Damla Gunes was recently named one of the four team captains, the only sophomore alongside her senior and graduate teammates Morse, Diaz and senior setter Chloe Ka’ahanui. 

“I didn’t expect it,” Damla Gunes said. “I’ve been trying really hard to be one of the leaders of the team and I’m glad coach Kyle saw that and gave me this opportunity.”

“(Damla)’s our quarterback,” Robinson said. “Her performance is super important for us to continue to grow the way we are. She leads everything. The way she goes is the way we go.” 

Damla Gunes continues to show just how essential she is to the team, by recording 34 assists, 11 digs and even one setter dump. 

“As a setter, I think it’s important for me to help my teammates in offense too, just to open things up,” Damla Gunes said. “I’m starting to get more aggressive there so people on the other side of the net can see me as a threat.” 

Quinnipiac — who starts MAAC play with a win for the first time in three years  — will face the Canisius Golden Griffins tomorrow at Burt Kahn Court at 1 p.m. 

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