Grand Rapids Rise

Rise Upended by Mojo Making Home Debut

February 24, 2024 - Pro Volleyball Federation (PVF)
Grand Rapids Rise News Release

Grand Rapids Rise's Nia Grant
Grand Rapids Rise's Nia Grant
(Grand Rapids Rise, Credit: Nicolas Carrillo/Rise)

SAN DIEGO - The Grand Rapids Rise weren't able to spoil the San Diego Mojo's home opener Friday evening inside Viejas Arena. The last-place Mojo (1-4 overall) pulled off the upset with a 3-1 victory over the league-leading Rise (3-2 overall) to win their first match in franchise history by set scores of 36-34, 25-27, 25-23, 25-23.

The Mojo were the last Pro Volleyball Federation team to play in front of their home crowd, and that excitement and energy of 6,020 fans carried into a wild opening set.

San Diego outlasted the Rise, 36-34, to win its first set of the season. The frame that refused to end featured seven Rise set points and five Mojo set points. A block from Ronika Stone and a Rise attack error helped the Mojo finally cross the finish line. As a result, the Rise suffered a first set defeat for the first time this season.

Grand Rapids tied a season high with 19 kills in the opening set. Symone Abbott (8 kills, .429 hitting percentage) and the reigning Pro Volleyball Federation Player of the Week, Emiliya Dimitrova (7, .266), did the bulk of the damage. Rise libero Sarah Sponcil also made a timely dig to extend the frame, as it was followed by a Dimitrova kill to even the score at 26-26.

Nonetheless, the high-scoring outcome was déjà vu to what the Rise experienced Monday last week (Feb. 12) against the Omaha Supernovas when Grand Rapids lost a pair of marathon sets, 33-31 and 30-28.

On the verge of going down 2-0 in the match, Dimitrova dropped in her 10th kill to knot the second set at 24-24. Abbott then came up clutch with back-to-back kills to help the Rise come from behind to claim the second set, 27-25. Abbott hit .500 in the frame with five more kills, as the Rise once again finished with 19 team kills in the set (.231). San Diego did its best to slow down the Grand Rapids offense with seven blocks through the first two sets.

Rise head coach Cathy George rotated setters in the second set with Mac Podraza replacing Ashley Evans when Grand Rapids fell behind 16-11. Podraza started the third set and stayed in for the rest of the match.

Grand Rapids couldn't get ahead in the third set after falling behind multiple times at 15-12, 21-17 and 23-19. The Rise managed to get within a point twice at 23-22 and 24-23, but Temi Thomas-Ailara delivered her 18th kill to seal the set, 25-23, for the Mojo.

The fourth set was much of the same. The Mojo kept getting ahead by a few points before the Rise clawed their way back. Grand Rapids, however, never led in the set and San Diego put the match away at 25-23 on a kill from Thomas-Ailara. She finished with a match high of 25 kills (.270) and 30 points. San Diego setter Nootsara Tomkom racked up 59 assists.

Dimitrova and Abbott both finished with 17 kills, Podraza tossed up 30 assists, and Sponcil had a team-high 26 digs for the Rise. Claire Chaussee added 10 kills and eight digs. Marin Grote did a little bit of everything with eight kills, three blocks, two aces, two digs, and an assist.


*Holland, Mich., native and former Michigan State standout, Alyssa Jensen, made her first professional appearance. The Rise 6-foot-4 middle blocker recorded one block and one dig early in the first set. *The Rise hit a season-low .205 attack percentage and were blocked 12 times. *Pro Volleyball Federation teams went 4-3 in their inaugural season home openers. *With the defeat, the Rise fell back to second place in the League standings behind the Atlanta Vibe (4-2 overall).

Box Score

GR 34 27 23 23 - 1

SD 36 25 25 25 - 3

Team Leaders

GR: Kills - Emiliya Dimitrova 17, Symone Abbott 17, Claire Chaussee 10; Assists - Mac Podraza 30, Ashley Evans 20, Sarah Sponcil 2; Aces - Marin Grote 2, Chaussee 1, Evans 1; Blocks - Grote 3, Podraza 2; Digs -Sponcil 26, Dimitrova 13, Chaussee 8, Abbott 8.

SD: Kills - Temi Thomas-Ailara 25, Lindsey Vander Weide 14, Hannah Tapp 11; Assists - Nootsara Tomkom 59, Shara Maria Venegas Medina 9; Aces - Ronika Stone 2, Vander Weide 2; Blocks - Thomas-Ailara 5, Tapp 3; Digs - Venegas Medina 20, Tomkom 17, Vander Weide 17, Thomas-Ailara 10.

A - 6,020

Record / Next Match

Grand Rapids: 3-2 / Fri., March 1 at Orlando, 7 p.m.

San Diego: 1-3 / Thu., Feb. 29 vs. Vegas, 7 p.m.

Images from this story

Grand Rapids Rise's Nia Grant
Grand Rapids Rise's Nia Grant

(Nicolas Carrillo/Rise)

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