DANBURY, Conn. -- The Brandeis University volleyball team went 1-2 at the Western Connecticut State University Invitational this weekend to start their 2014 season. The Judges fell to Rivier College in four sets in the opener to their campaign. They picked up head coach Alesia Vaccari's first win for Brandeis against Mount Ida College in straight sets before falling to host Western Connecticut State in three in their final match.
There were several storylines for Brandeis over the weekend. In the loss to Rivier on Friday night, the Judges played tight in three of the four sets, twice falling by just two points (23-25, 12-25, 25-21, 23-25). In that match, two players combined for 20 of the team's 39 kills: junior middle blocker Maddie Engeler (Sandusky, Ohio/St. Mary Central Catholic) had 10 kills in her first match after missing her sophomore campaign, while rookie outside hitter Jessie Moore reached double figures in kills in her first collegiate match. For Engeler, it was her fourth career match with 10 or more kills, but first since Sept. 21, 2012. She also had two solo blocks on the night. Rivier showed more balance, however, putting four players between eight and 11 kills.
On Saturday morning, the Judges raced past Mount Ida, 25-14, 25-18, 25-11. Brandeis was led by junior middle blocker/right-side hitter Summer Koop (Long Valley, N.J./West Morris Central), who established a new career-high with nine kills on 13 attacks with no errors for a .692 hitting percentage, also a collegiate-best. Engeler also had nine kills without a miscue, needing 21 attempts for a .429 percentage. Rookie setter Julie Kim (Fullerton, Calif./Troy) had 28 assists and two of the squad's nine service aces.
In the final match of their tournament, Brandeis had trouble with the host Colonials, falling 9-25, 18-25, 12-25. The story of the final match was senior defensive specialist Elsie Bernaiche (Southington, Conn./Planstville), who recorded a match-best 24 digs. After posting 17 against Rivier and a match-high 21 against MIC, Bernaiche finished her weekend with 1,608 career digs, moving her into first place on the Judges' career list. Bernaiche surpassed Marni (Kutok) Friedman '04, who ended her career with 1,605. Bernaiche is also the program's career leader in digs per set at 4.70, nearly a full dig per set more than her closest competitor. Unfortunately, Brandeis's offense was unable to keep pace, committing 19 errors.
Brandeis returns to action next weekend, when they host their only Invitational of the season. The Judges will face Coast Guard on Friday evening, Wellesley and Wesleyan on Saturday.