After coming off of a win against the St. Ambrose Fighting Bees, they are welcomed back to Saint Xavier on their home court last Wednesday and Thursday night in the Shannon Center. The Bob Hallberg Court was full of Cougar Nation cheering on the men during their first home game against non-conference rival Clarke University Pride.
The Cougars felt the crowd’s energy and started strong as they took the first set 25-23. The Cougars and the Pride were neck and neck the entire first set with each team only having a two point lead over the other. The Cougars took their motivation into their second set, but fell short 25-15 against the Pride along with losing the third set 25-16. The Cougars were not going down without a fight.
During the fourth set, the Pride led the Cougars 14-13, and then the Cougars started to rail the next three straight points. The Pride answered back tying the game back, but the Cougars brought the heat as they went on a 7-1 run reclaiming the lead 23-17. Junior outside hitter Jake Olson would seal the deal recording two kills forcing a fifth set.
The Pride did not waste any time taking the 4-1 lead and taking the fifth set along with the game bringing the Cougars record to 1-2 on the season. The home-stand was not over for the Cougars yet. The next night, the Cougars welcomed conference rival Robert Morris University, who are ranked #10 in the NAIA Polls.
Although the Cougars played a close three sets, the fall short to the Eagles 28-26, 25-20, and 25-21 to give the Cougars a 1-1 record in the CCAC and a 1-3 record on the season. Olson on the night had 10 kills and reached double figures.
He did this for the third consecutive match and this is the first time this has happened in a three-set game. Sophomore setter Aaron Kummer racked up twenty-seven assists with nine digs and three kills. Then senior libero Brandon McGinnis collected fifteen digs of his own.
The Cougars and the Eagles battled it out in the first set with the leads constantly changing and twelve ties. The Cougars were 12-8 on kills over the Eagles thanks to Sophomore middle blocker Ben Gabor and Olson. Then the Eagles went on a rally with a 7-1 run that got them the 18-16 lead.
The Cougars were down 23-20 and then they pulled together three straight points tying the game. The first set would end up going into extra points with the Cougars up 26-25. The Eagles would finish this set after three straight points.
The second set was almost like watching the first set all over again. It was déjà vu. Kills from sophomore middle blocker Mike Burci and Gabor tied the game at fourteen. Three straight points gave the Eagles back the lead and they would maintain this lead for the rest of the set. Saint Xavier did come back with 5-8 points closing the gap to 20-19. The Eagles when on 5-1 run claiming the second set.
The Cougars were hoping to force a fourth set in the middle of the third set with a 14-9 lead senior middle blocker Brad Gadek attacked the Eagles with a killer ace. The Eagles responded quickly railing the next six points to take the 15-14 lead. Thanks to errors from the Eagles, the Cougars would tie the game at fifteen and sixteen. The Eagles still managed to take control and the third set sweeping the Cougars.
The Cougars will be back in action next week on the road traveling to Judson University for a CCAC matchup. The first serve from Elgin is at 7:00 p.m.