Oral Roberts University flexed its muscles on Thursday night, dominating Southland Conference newcomer Incarnate Word, 3-0, in front of a rowdy capacity crowd at the Kenneth H. Cooper Aerobics Center. ORU improves to 9-2 (1-0 SLC) with the win, while the Cardinals fall to 4-3 (0-1 SLC).
The Golden Eagles secured the sweep by scores of 25-17, 25-17 and 25-19.
Freshman McKenna Qualls paced the Golden Eagles with 12 kills on the night, and she checked off a double-double with 12 digs. Sara Pope added 10 kills for the home side, which swung at a .272 clip in their 2013 home opener.
Defensively, senior star Bruna Silva led all players with 17 digs, while Laura Taylor added eight to go with 35 assists.
Incarnate Word hit .160 as a team and was led by Angelique Vidaurri, who scored 13 kills. Libero Sarah Cardenas added a team-high nine digs in a losing effort.
The victory is ORU's first in a home opener since 2008, snapping a four-match streak in their first home appearances of the season. ORU had also lost their conference openers in each of the last two seasons.
A dominating night of serving was paramount to the ORU triumph. The Golden Eagles blasted nine aces on Thursday night, with a career-high four aces coming from senior Jessica Pancratz.
ORU edged ahead in the 1st set with a lightning-quick 3-0 run, as consecutive Pope kills gave the home team a 12-9 lead. Later Qualls and Jovana Poljasevic combined on a block to cap a 4-0 run and stretch the lead to 16-11. It was the freshman who punctuated the set with kills on the final two rallies to give ORU a 25-17 win.
The home team scored the first three points of the 2nd set and stretched the advantage to 12-5 on a Pancratz kill. Later Poljasevic ended a four-point rally with a kill that made the lead 18-9, and Qualls again dropped the hammer on set point with a kill that ended the period in a 25-17 ORU win.
Pancratz served the Golden Eagles to a 6-0 lead in the 3rd set, all but ensuring a sweep. The bulge grew to 17-8 on a Qualls kill, and yet again it was the Edmond native who provided the final kill at match point. ORU took the final set by a 25-19 margin.
The victory was a team effort for the Golden Eagles. Pancratz finished the night with eight kills, while Luara Rosa chipped in five kills and seven digs. At the net, ORU racked up seven blocks, with Poljasevic leading the team with four individual efforts.
ORU will return home on Saturday to face another new member of the Southland Conference, Abilene Christian. First serve at the Aerobics Center is scheduled for 2 p.m. CT.