By Adam Samson/Sports Information Director
WINFIELD, Kan. – After beginning the year 0-2, the Stars worked their way back to .500 on Wednesday with a 25-15, 25-20, 25-16 straight-set victory over Southwestern College (Kan.) and 25-5, 25-22, 25-19 sweep of Hillsdale Free Will Baptist College (Okla.).
The early season jitters from opening weekend were non-existent this afternoon as the Stars were much more effective offensively with fewer errors. Collectively, Stephens hit .280 against Southwestern and .327 versus Hillsdale Free Will Baptist.
In the second match, Stephens tied a program-best margin of victory in a single set, while recording the highest hitting percentage on record with a .650 clip in Set 3. The last time the Stars won a set 25-5 was in 2011 against St. Louis College of Pharmacy.
Match One – Stephens College def. Southwestern (Kan.), 3-0 (25-15, 25-20, 25-16)
Stephens cruised through the first set, winning by a score of 25-15. After struggling on offense against Morningside College, the Stars reversed the curse and hit .269 in Set 1. Kerri Kircher and Halan Mann paved the way with four and three kills, respectively.
In Set 2, the Stars jumped out to an early lead and maintained at least a four-point margin following the 7-3 mark.
Stephens broke away from the Moundbuilders in the third set with a 15-7 run to conclude the match. Kircher provided a strong presence at the net and aided the stretch with four kills in the Stars’ 25-16 win. SC limited the home team to a match-low eight kills in Set 3, while the Stars finished on a high note with a match-high 16 kills and .414 hitting percentage.
Individually, setter Danielle Craven posted a career-high in both kills (3) and assists (32), surpassing her previous best in assists by six. The sophomore distributed the ball well with six teammates hitting above .250.
Kerri Kircher and Halan Mann led the Stars in kills with nine apiece with the latter posting an impressive .412 attack percentage, eight digs and a team-high two service aces. Other notable performances included Shelby Johnson, who hit .417 with seven kills, and Kandace Cook with six kills.
Match Two – Stephens College def. Hillsdale Free Will Baptist (Okla.), 3-0 (25-5, 25-22, 25-19)
The energy carried over into the Stars’ match with Hillsdale Free Will Baptist College as the Stars steamrolled the Saints in the first set, 25-5. Midway through, Stephens won eight straight rallies and picked up consecutive points in several other stretches.
Stephens head coach Rose Obunaga went deep into her bench in the final two sets and kept HFWB at bay for the remainder of the contest.
Kerri Kircher was near perfect on attack with 14 kills and just one error. The junior middle hitter hit .500 for the match. Setter Danielle Craven followed up Match One with another breakout performance, bettering her career-highs in kills with five and assists with 36.
Four players finished with 5+ kills including Kircher, Craven, Kandace Cook and Shelby Johnson. Key reserves that also had strong showings were Shay Wilkerson (.800, 4 kills) and Darby Jones (.500, 3 kills).
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