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Strong improvements stand out for Volley Frogs despite series loss to West Virginia

The offense gets more well-rounded, and Dani Dennison is one of the Big 12’s best defenders.

Senior Dani Dennison now leads the Big 12 in digs/set.
Photo courtesy of GoFrogs.com

It’s been a slow start to the season for TCU Volleyball.

The Frogs currently sit at 1-5 on the season with only seven set wins under their belt. The latest shortcoming for TCU came this past weekend, as they dropped both of their matches at West Virginia.

Nevertheless, the weekend wasn’t all bad, so let’s take a look at some of the silver linings from the Frogs matchups with the Mountaineers.

Game 1

After set one, it looked like West Virginia was in control. They had jumped out to a massive 10-2 lead to start the day, and they never looked back, winning 25-18.

TCU wasn’t going to get walked over, though. The Frogs came storming back to win the second and third sets, both by a score of 25-18.

During set two, TCU was dominant at the net, collecting five blocks to hold West Virginia to just a .147 hitting clip. Three blocks came from sophomore Audrey Nalls, who made her 2020 debut in the contest.

“I saw a lot of good things from our squad tonight,” head coach Jill Kramer said. “We’ve made some big improvements on the blocking and defensive side of the ball.”

Nall’s return will be huge for the Frogs going forward, as the outside hitter finished second on the team in 2019 with 263 kills and 63 blocks.

The third set saw a flex of the offensive prowess of Julia Adams, who has been lights out all year.

The sophomore racked up seven kills on .300 hitting, helping to give TCU a 2-1 match lead.

Adams finished with a whopping 21 kills on the day. That was her second 20-kill match of the year already.

The final two sets went to West Virginia, but TCU was competitive in both. The game was the Frogs’ second in their last three to go to five sets, demonstrating their ability to keep it close with teams.

TCU finished with a season-high 10.0 blocks on the day. Senior Sarah Swanson had led the way with four by herself.

For perspective, the Frogs totaled two blocks TOTAL in their two-game series with No. 2 Baylor to open their season.

Another season-high for the Frogs came in digs, with the team collecting 71. Senior Dani Dennison (24) and junior Ashley Wehrstein (12) led the way for TCU in that area.

Despite the loss, TCU had out-killed West Virginia 63-56.

Game 2

While West Virginia won game 2 in just four sets, TCU’s performance was arguably more impressive than the day before.

Dennison tied her career-high with 28 digs on the night. That was previously set for her early in her freshman year, and this was her highest total in a Big 12 match.

That is also the highest number anyone in the Big 12 has hit so far this year, and the senior now leads the conference in digs per set.

On the offensive side, TCU out-killed West Virginia again, this time 65-47.

The Frogs only hit the 60-kill mark five times in 2019, they’ve already hit it three times this season. It’s clear that the offense is more well-rounded and starting to find its groove.

Fourteen of those kills on Friday came from freshman Taylor Raiola, who had sort of a coming-out party in the match.

The outside hitter put up her first career double-double, adding ten digs to her kill total in her first match with serious time-played.

The bulk of TCU’s offensive explosion came in the second set. After falling behind 0-1 in the match, the Frogs went off for their biggest set win of the season, 25-11.

Raiola had put up five kills in the second set alone, as TCU hit an outstanding .303. Meanwhile, the defense held the Mountaineers to a laughable -.083.

Once again, West Virginia won back-to-back sets to win the game, but TCU was in both of them until the end.

“Our team battled today, but came up short,” head coach Jill Kramer said. “We are continuing to improve in many aspects of the game and are looking forward to getting back in the gym this week”

Setter McKenzie Nichols stayed sharp with 57 assists on the day, while Swanson put down nine kills on .389 hitting.

Up Next:

TCU will look to get back in the win column, as they return home for a Thursday/Friday series with Kansas. Both matches will see first serves at 3:30 p.m. at Schollmaier Arena.