BALDWIN CITY, Kan. – Fourth-ranked Park University withstood a bit of mid-match shock after the Pirates watched one of their own go down, recollecting themselves to beat Graceland University in four sets – 25-18, 25-9, 22-25, 25-14 – in the first match of the Baker Invitational in Baldwin City, Kansas.
The Pirates (8-1) eased through the first set, leading wire-to-wire to win 25-18, and in the second, an 8-0 run turned a 10-5 lead in to a 13-point advantage, as Katherine Dudra recorded an ace after three-straight Nada Meawad kills to make it 18-5. The Pirates had set point at 24-7, when Ashley Warehime and Maren Mair blocked Megan Kneib, but the Yellowjackets got the benefit of a Park error to make it 24-8, and Kelsie Sickels recorded an ace to make it 24-9.
It was that ace that sent Corina Rodriguez diving in to the stands, where she suffered a cut to her forehead. Rodriguez was eventually escorted off the floor and off site.
"First, and most important, Corina is okay aside from needing some stitches," said Park coach Mike Talamantes, who left the facility with Rodriguez for evaluation. "She's tough – she always has been. Our team's effort was good in the last two sets, and (assistant coach Rob Cordero) did a great job of refocusing our team to get a win."
Park had a big lead in the third set, up 20-15 on Meawad's ace, but Graceland reeled off a 10-2 set-ending run, getting a kill from Sickels to extend the match, completing a 25-22 third-set win.
The Pirates matched Graceland's 10-2 run to begin the fourth, scoring four-straight with Meawad at the service line, including a kill and an ace from Meawad during the run. Noura Meawad also had back-to-back aces early in the set, and four-straight points with Kaci Crabtree controlling service had Park in front by double digits, up 15-4.
Mair put Park a point away from a match win with a kill to go up 24-12, and Graceland (4-4) ran out of points after scoring the next two, falling victim to Dudra's match-winner, a kill from Danna Gomes for the Pirates' fourth-straight win.
Gomes passed out 48 assists in four sets, helping the Pirates hit .271, and Dudra had double figures with 11 kills while Meawad led the offense with 13. Defensively, Mair had four blocks, while Celina Monteiro defended the back row with 25 digs. Graceland was led by Megan Kneib's eight kills.
Park is back on the floor in Baldwin City this afternoon at 4 p.m., taking on Ottawa University.