MARSHALL, Mo. - Third-ranked Park University needed six sets to get by another pair of opponents, completing a four-win, four-sweep weekend at the Missouri Valley College Invitational by beating the University of Saint Mary (25-9, 25-13, 25-19) and (RV) Ottawa University (25-11, 25-13, 25-23), Saturday, in Marshall, Missouri.
Park (4-0) simply out-slugged Saint Mary in the morning match, holding the Spires to two negative hitting marks, in the first and second sets, while hitting .348 and .323, respectively, in the Pirates' first and second frames.
For a second-straight match, Katherine Dudra led the Pirates with double digits, putting away 10 kills, while Tijana Sisic added seven kills off the bench and Noura Meawad had six, hitting .556. Danna Gomes had 11 assists, playing in parts of two sets before giving way to reserve setter Corina Rodriguez, who spread 22 assists over two sets. Celina Monteiro led the defense with 13 digs and Alissa Flint had 10 more, while Noura Meawad led the starters on the back row with seven digs.
On a tough offensive day for USM, Maleka Benjamin led the Spires with seven kills, while Savannah Fillion led starters with five kills.
"We executed very, very well against Saint Mary and kind of put them in some tough positions from the very beginning," said Park coach Mike Talamantes. "I think our efficiency had them off balance and I was happy with the amount of playing time we were able to get for some of our reserves. That's valuable experience as we work toward building our best roster for November."
Saturday's noon match was the toughest, on paper, as Ottawa (2-2) was receiving votes in the NAIA Top 25, but the Pirates were able to limit the Braves to only .055 hitting, forcing Ottawa in to 22 attacking errors in the match.
"Our defense was good all weekend," Talamantes said. "I thought we hit a different level against Ottawa, knowing we had to against a team with that kind of power. The entire roster did its job in that match and we were able to be really, really successful."
Nada Meawad hit .444 against Ottawa, leading the offense for a second time in four matches with 20 kills, adding a double-double with 13 digs. Gomes went back to full control of the offense from the setting position, with 37 assists, while Monteiro anchored the back line for a fourth time, this season, with 14 digs. Kenna Hall was Ottawa's leader on offense, posting nine kills.
The Pirates led for all 50 points in the first and second sets, but Ottawa didn't go away quietly in the third, erasing a 7-6 Park lead with a 4-0 run getting a block from Adriana Skipper and Makayla Aspegren, one of three Park attacking errors in the run that forced the Pirates to stop play with a timeout.
Ottawa used another 3-0 run to stay in front 17-14, but Park answered with five-consecutive points to regain a 19-17 lead on Gomes kill from Nada Meawad, and that combination paired again at set point, as Meawad took an assist from Gomes to register a kill for a 24-20 lead. Ottawa did score the next three points to cut the Park lead to one, but Taylor Fortner couldn't connect on a third-straight attempt at the service line, an error that ended the match in favor of the Pirates, 25-23.
The schedule continues to pressure the Pirates next weekend in Columbia, at the Cougars' Hampton Inn Invitational, beginning Friday at 1 p.m., in what could be the NAIA match of the week between No. 3 Park and No. 6 Viterbo University. It's the beginning of a four-match weekend that also includes tests from Huntington, Saint Francis and Olivet Nazarene at CC's Southwell Complex. For links to coverage, visit ParkAthletics.com.