No. 3 Eastern Connecticut 3, No. 6 Plymouth State 2
WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – Ten days after sweeping Plymouth State University on its home floor, the third-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University women's volleyball team had to rally to win the final two sets and post a five-set victory over the sixth-seeded Panthers in the opening round of the Little East Conference tournament at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium. Eastern won by scores of 25-14, 21-25, 18-25, 25-18, 15-7.
By snapping a three-match losing streak, Eastern (16-16) advances to the tournament semifinals for the first time after opening losses the last two years and will face second-seeded Keene State College (20-15) - which drew a first-round bye – Saturday evening at 6 p.m. at the University of Massachusetts Boston's Clark Athletic Center. At 4 p.m. Saturday, top-seeded and five-time defending champion UMass Boston meets fourth-seeded Western Connecticut State University, which swept fifth-seeded Rhode Island College Tuesday. Keene defeated Eastern in four sets Sept. 27 at Keene, NH. UMass Boston will host Sunday's final at noon.
Plymouth won the important third set Tuesday after the teams had split the opening pair -- scoring three points in a row to take the lead for good, 9-6 – and was closing in on match point with a 14-11 lead in the fourth before the Warriors rallied to outscore the visitors, 10-1 and move out to a decisive 21-15 lead.
Riding the fourth-set momentum, Eastern jumped to a 6-1 lead in the fifth set and Plymouth never got closer than three the rest of the way. Sophomore outside hitter Adrianna Mihalek (Woodbury) had five kills in the decisive set and senior setter Allie Henry (Middletown) had a re-direct to close out the victory in the final home match of her career.
Ranked second in the LEC in kills, Mihalek led all players with 23 kills – seven coming in the fourth-set victory which extended the match to the limit. She also had three service aces and 13 digs as the Warriors closed out their season with ten wins in 14 home matches.
Junior libero Allie Luppi (Tewsksbury, MA) served for four aces, and dug up a match-high 29 balls. The top defensive team in LEC competition, Eastern got five blocks from freshman middle blocker Hannah Koehler (Bedford, NH) and four from Henry, who also totaled 50 assists and two aces. Sophomore defensive specialist Nina Zimmitti (East Hampton) chipped in nine digs.
Senior outside hitter Jana Nieman, ranked eighth in the LEC in kills, led Plymouth with 18 kills with a .313 attack percentage. Sophomore middles Brianna Wojtas and Mikki Taffe each added nine kills. Sophomore outside hitter Katie Sylvia served six aces, junior setter Kirsten Perrotta setting 45 assists and freshman defensive specialist Brenna Peruch digging 26 balls, Perrotta 17 and Sylvia 14.
No. 4 Western Connecticut 3, No. 5 Rhode Island College 0
DANBURY, Conn. – The Western Connecticut State University volleyball team marched on to the Little East Conference tournament semifinals with a resounding 3-0 defeat of Rhode Island College Tuesday evening at Feldman Arena.
In Saturday's semifinal, the #4 seeded Colonials will face the tournament's top seed, UMass Boston. The Beacons narrowly defeated Western two weeks ago in Boston, 3-2, with the final game decided by the slimmest of margins, 15-13.
Western used a similar theme to dominate each of the three sets against Rhode Island College, building sizable early leads, and never giving the Anchorwomen a chance to build any momentum.
The Colonials rushed out to 4-0 leads in the first and second sets before winning 25-12 and 25-13, respectively. In the third and final set, Western again established an early lead, but even a late six-point run by Rhode Island College left little doubt about the outcome, a 25-18 win for Western.
For Western, senior Caitlin Van Camp (Redding, CT) led a balanced hitting attack with eight kills, followed by five each from freshman Brittany Steele (Massapequa, NY), sophomore Karissa Smith (Bristol, CT), and sophomore Jaqueline Kanuk (New Fairfield, CT). Senior Jennifer Hogan (Franklin Square, NY) led with 16 assists followed by sophomore Danielle Kaminsky (Southington, CT) with 13 assists. Smith led in digs with 13, while senior Nina Wojtkiewicz (Griswold, CT) had nine digs.
Leaders for Rhode Island College were junior Michelle Malboeuf (Cumberland, RI) with nine kills, and freshman Abigayl White (Coventry, RI) with 20 assists 15 digs.
With the win, Western improves to 23-10 on the season, while Rhode Island College closes out the 2014 season with a 12-14 record. The Colonials advance to the semifinal round of the Little East Conference Tournament and a date with the #1 Seed, UMass Boston. The match is scheduled to begin at 4:00pm on Saturday, November 8, in Boston, with the second semifinal scheduled to follow at 6:00pm, also at UMass Boston.