RICHMOND, Va. – Friday was most Virginia Commonwealth University Volleyball fans' first chance to see the 2011 Rams. One thing is for sure, their first memory of Cecilia Aragao (Recife, Brazil) will be a pleasant one. The freshman setter nearly turned in a triple-double to push the Rams past Cornell, 3-1 (26-24, 22-25, 25-23, 25-16) Friday night at the Verizon Wireless Arena in the Third Degree Sportswear Invitational.
Aragao was active in every facet of the game Friday, contributing seven kills, 12 digs, five blocks and two service aces. But she was most valuable directing the Rams' offense, which produced 64 kills in 98 points behind Aragao's 47 assists. With Aragao at the helm, VCU hit .251 on the night, including a .394 mark in a wire-to-wire, 25-16 victory in the fourth set.
Junior Kristin Boyd (Wilmington, N.C.) was Aragao's primary beneficiary, blasting 17 kills in 43 swings. Boyd also recorded her first double-double of the season, booking 10 digs, as well as two aces and two blocks.
In addition to a season-high 59 assists, VCU dug a 2011-best 71 balls. Five players were credited with double-digit digs, including senior libero Amanda Friday (Springfield, Va.), who was playing in her first home match as a Ram after transferring from Tennessee.
Seniors Jessica Ojukwu (Sao Paulo, Brazil) and Courtney Hott (Fredericksburg, Va.) added 13 and 11 kills, respectively.
Kelly Marble led four Cornell players with double-digit kills with 13. Libero Risa Ka'awa led all players with 23 digs.
VCU and Cornell traded blows in the early going. The first set featured six ties and a pair of lead changes before the Rams pulled out the 26-24 win. The Black and Gold faced a 23-20 deficit, but back-to-back kills from Boyd and Hott, followed by a Cornell hitting error, tied the set at 23-all. After trading points, the Rams grabbed a 25-24 lead when a serendipitous overpass by Friday landed in no-man's land. On the ensuing play, Ojukwu served up a jump-serve ace for the win.
The Big Red returned the favor in the second set, erasing a 15-11 hole with an 11-3 burst in a 25-22 triumph.
Midway through the third, the Rams began to impose their will. Trailing 17-13, VCU embarked on a 12-6 run to close the frame. The final set was never really close, as VCU stormed to a 9-3 lead and never looked back.
VCU returns to the court on Saturday, Sept. 10 when it resumes the Third Degree Invitational with a pair of matches. The Rams take on North Carolina A&T at 10 a.m., followed by a 5 p.m. nightcap with George Washington at the Verizon Wireless Arena.