GRAND RAPIDS, MI. – The Omaha Supernovas earned their first road win in franchise history with a 21-25, 33-31, 30-28, 25-21 four-set victory over the Grand Rapids Rise Monday night at Van Andel Arena.
Omaha (2-2) survived 10 Grand Rapids (2-1) set points to come away with a victory to hand Interim Head Coach Laura “Bird” Kuhn her first career win in the Pro Volleyball Federation. Playing in front of a crowd of 4,060, the Supernovas got major contributions from setter Natalia Valentin-Anderson in her first league start. The Puerto Rico Olympian dished out 50 assists, 19 digs and four kills which included the set-ending spike in set two.
Brooke Nuneviller led the Omaha attackers with 18 kills on a .240 clip that also included 10 digs and one ace. Jess Schaben-Lansman had another standout performance with 17 kills on a .260 hitting percentage and 15 digs. Outside hitter Bethania de la Cruz terminated eight balls with 12 digs, but she tortured the Rise from behind the service line with six aces which equals her own Pro Volleyball Federation record for most aces in a single match.
Libero Kendall White recorded 18 digs with five assists while serving substitution Paige Briggs hammered two aces. Middle blocker Hristina Vuchkova finished with eight kills, three blocks and one ace in her Omaha debut.
Former Louisville All-American Claire Chaussee had a match-high 19 kills to lead the Rise while opposite Emiliya Dimitrova totaled 16 and Simone Abbott finished with 15. Starting setter Ashley Evans handed out 43 assists while libero Sarah Sponcil finished with 23 digs.
Omaha hit .198 on the night with 12 blocks and 10 aces. Grand Rapids finished with a .201 hitting percentage, 13 blocks and three aces.
SET 1: The Supernovas shot out to a quick 3-1 behind the league-leading 11th ace of the season by de la Cruz as well as the first kill for Vuchkova in an Omaha uniform. The set escalated from there with Grand Rapids firing back with a 4-1 run to take a 9-6 lead. The Rise would hold an advantage for most of the set, eventually gaining a 19-15 edge with back-to-back kills from Symone and Kayla Caffey. However, Vuchkova found a groove from behind the service line, putting pressure on the Rise passers leading to a 4-0 run – including a Vuchkova ace – to pull within 22-21. After a Grand Rapids timeout, the Rise would close out the set with Marin Grote terminating a set-ending kill to make the final set score 25-21.
The Grand Rapids offense rolled hitting .342 compared to Omaha’s .228. Nuneviller led the Supernovas with five kills while Abbott had a set-high six kills. Each team had two blocks with Omaha outpacing Grand Rapids in aces 2-0.
SET 2: In one of the most highly contested sets of the early season, Omaha and Grand Rapids exchanged blows throughout the entire set, not being separated by more than two points. The Supernovas grabbed the upper hand after a Briggs serving sub ace to go ahead 22-20. The Rise rallied behind an Omaha service error, a Scully Shannon ace and a Supernovas hitting error to retake the lead 23-22. After Nuneviller tied the set at 23 with a kill, each team exchanged points in the final stretch. Grand Rapids had five set points but couldn’t capitalize on any.
Following a Rise block to make it 31-30, Nuneviller came up clutch again with a kill to tie it at 31. De la Cruz followed up with a kill as Schaben-Lansman put the finishing touch on an endless second set with her fifth kill of the game to give Omaha a 33-31 set two win to tie the match.
Nuneviller recorded six of her 18 kills in that set while Omaha hit .180 with two blocks and three aces. Grand Rapids hit better at .191 with three blocks and two aces. Dimitrova led the way with eight kills in the set alone.
SET 3: The Supernovas set the tone in the third set following intermission, climbing out to an 8-2 lead thanks to serving runs from Valentín-Anderson and de la Cruz – who had two aces in that stretch. After a Rise timeout, Grand Rapids came back into the fold with a run of their own. Spearheaded by a front row that recorded four blocks, the Rise rallied off a 12-4 run to take the set lead at 14-12, which also included a pair of kills from former ACC Player of the Year Chaussee.
Valentín-Anderson and Schaben-Lansman combined to become the catalyst for a 5-1 Omaha run. Schaben-Lansman came up with a solo block and back-to-back kills to hand the Supernovas the lead back at 17-15. A 6-1 run by Grand Rapids gave the Rise a 21-18 advantage, but another Briggs serving sub ace tied the match at 22. The two teams would split the next 11 points to make it 28-all, which also included four Chaussee kills.
Team captain Nuneviller stepped up when needed most, combining on a block with Tori Dixon to give Omaha set point which was followed by a Valentín-Anderson overpass kill to make the set final 30-28 and give the Supernovas a 2-1 match lead.
Schaben-Lansman recorded seven of her kills in that set with Nuneviller earning five. Omaha had five blocks to go along with three aces. Chaussee led the Rise with five kills while Grand Rapids totaled six blocks and one ace.
SET 4: Omaha earned an early edge at 6-4 but extended that lead to 10-4 with a Nuneviller service run that consisted of a Dixon kill, Nuneviller ace and Dixon coming together with de la Cruz for a block. A consistent theme of the night were the comebacks of the Rise as Grand Rapids rallied from a 13-6 deficit with runs of 4-1 and 7-1 to get within one point at 18-17.
The two teams would exchange rallies as a Grote kill got the Rise to 21-20. Schaben-Lansman slammed down a kill which was followed by a Rise hitting error to make it 23-20. Vuchkova recorded her last of three blocks with a solo stuff to make it match point. Dixon terminated her fourth kill on her sixth swing to give Omaha its first road win in franchise history to secure a 25-21 set-four victory.
The Supernovas continue their road trip with their second matchup against the Vegas Thrill on Thursday, February 15 as the Thrill host their first-ever home match. First serve is set for 9 p.m. CST with all the action on the Supernovas Radio Network that can be found on flagship station 93.7 The Ticket, 95.7 The Boss (Omaha), KRVN (Lexington), KOLT (Scottsbluff) and KTOC (West Point).