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Eastern Connecticut, Western Connecticut Advance to Sunday's Volleyball Final

Eastern Connecticut, Western Connecticut Advance to Sunday's Volleyball Final


No. 4 Western Connecticut 3, No. 1 UMass Boston 1


BOSTON,  Mass. - The Western Connecticut State University volleyball team avenged a heart-breaking defeat at the hands of UMass Boston two weeks ago, defeating the Beacons 3-1 in the semifinals of the Little East Conference Tournament, and advance to Sunday's championship game where the Colonials will face the winner of the day's second semifinal between Keene State and Eastern Connecticut.  

Leading a balanced hitting attack for Western were sophomore Karissa Smith (Bristol, CT) with 14 kills, sophomore Jaqueline Kanuk (New Fairfield, CT) with 11 kills, and freshman Brittany Steele (Massapequa, NY).  Sophomore Danielle Kaminsky (Southington, CT) led the Colonials with 40 assists, while also recording 20 digs on defense.  Senior libero Nina Wojtkiewicz (Griswold, CT)also had a solid defensive showing with 27 digs, to help Western withstand 162 attack attempts from the UMass Boston hitters. 

In the first set, neither team led by more than two points throughout.  With the score tied 22-22, Smith and Kanuk hit back to back winners that gave Western game-point.  UMass Boston closed the gap to 24-23, before a ball handling error cost the Beacons game one and gave Western a 1-0 lead, 25-23. 

In the second set, UMass Boston appeared in control for much of the game, posting leads of 8-4, 14-7, and 21-15.  Two hitting errors in a row by UMass Boston gave Western new life and the Colonials stormed back with a 10-2 run, sealing the win with a block by seniors Caitlin Van Camp (Redding, CT) and Heather Williams (Kinston, NY), for a second 25-23 win and a 2-0 lead in the match. 

In set three, Western rushed out to an early 4-0 lead before UMass Boston fought back to even the score at 7-7.  The Beacons maintained their momentum and pulled away down the stretch to claim a 25-17 victory and cut Western’s lead to 2-1. 

The fourth set proved to be another closely contested game, with neither team producing a sustained rally.  With the score tied at 20, Williams blocked another UMass Boston hitting attempt, and then Kaminsky stepped to the service line and served four straight points, including one ace, to lift Western to a 25-20, and a 3-1 victory for the match. 

With the win, Western improves to 24-10 on the season and moves on to the championship game of this year’s Little East Conference tournament, with a trip to the NCAA Tournament on the line, against the winner of today’s second semifinal between Keene State and Eastern Connecticut.  Game time for Sunday’s match is 12:00 noon.

No. 3 Eastern Connecticut 3, No. 2 Keene State 0


BOSTON, Mass. – The third-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University women's volleyball team used a 6-1 run in the third set to erase an early four-point deficit and went on to a semifinal sweep of second-seeded Keene State College and move into the championship game of the 2014 Little East Conference tournament at the Clark Athletic Center. Scores were 26-24, 25-21, 25-17.

Eastern (17-16) avenged a four-set loss to Keene (20-16) six weeks ago and moves into its tenth final in the 17-year history of the championship Sunday at noon against fourth-seeded Western Connecticut State University (24-10). The Colonials upset top-seeded and five-time defending champion in four sets in Saturday's first semifinal. Eastern swept Western Oct. 7 at Geissler Gym.

After capturing the first two sets by a total of six points, Eastern trailed by four points in the early part of the third set before sophomore Ashley Adams (Mystic) contributed four kills and six-foot freshman Caryn Sibiskie (Rockfall) one in a 6-1 spurt which moved the Warriors into the lead for good, 10-8.

The Warriors attacked at only .059 in the regular-season loss to Keene, but attacked at .250 in the first-set win Saturday and finished with a mark of .196 in the match.

Ranked fifth in the LEC in digs, junior libero Allie Luppi (Tewksbury, MA) led players on both teams with 21 (7.0 per set) and was perfect on 16 reception attempts while adding four service aces. Sophomore Amanda Tyler (Longmeadow, MA) added nine digs, three service aces and a.938 reception percentage on 16 attempts.

Sophomore Adrianna Mihalek (Woodbury) topped both teams with 13 kills, Adams totalling eight for the second straight time in the LEC tournament, and senior setter Allie Henry (Middletown) had 33 assists, giving her 83 in two tournament matches.

Neither team led by more than two points after the opening moments of the first set, and the Warriors came through with the final three points to overcome a late one-point deficit. With Eastern facing set point after a Keene ace, Mihalek kept the team alive with a kill to tie it at 24-all, and an Owl attack error move the Warriors to within set point. Mihalek, whose four kills provided Eastern with the majority of its final seven point, closed it out after a Keene timeout with her sixth kill of the set.

The Warriors moved to within one set of the victory with their second-set triumph. Eastern never trailed, racing to leads of 10-3 and 20-10. Keene managed to cut the gap to three late in the set behind the attacking of junior Angela Silveri – last year's LEC co-Offensive Player-of-the-Year – but Mihalek against came up with by contributing kills around an attack error to close out the victory.

Silveri, who had pounded Eastern in the regular season with 17 kills and a .333 attack percentage on 36 attempts, was limited to seven kills on half as many tries. Senior Samantha Branning matched Silveri with seven kills, and freshman Katie Cunningham picked up 19 digs and handled 23 of 24 reception attempts.

The win over Keene is the first for Eastern (after seven losses) since the fifth-seeded Warriors took down the top-seed Owls in five sets on Keene's home floor in the 2007 semifinals on the way to their third straight (and most recent) title. Eastern is 5-0 against Keene in LEC playoff competition. The Owls have won one title but lost in the final to UMass Boston in three of the last four seasons.

Eastern and Western are meeting in the final for the seventh time, the Colonials having won four. The teams met in the title game in each of the first five years of the conference tournament, Western winning four straight after the Warriors won the initial championship in 1998. Eastern capped its run through the 2007 tournament with a sweep of the Colonials at Keene State when the clubs last met in the final.

In all, Eastern has reached the final of nine previous tournaments, winning four titles. Western has claimed the title five times in seven championship game appearances, both losses to Eastern.