In epic match, Eastern erases two-set deficit but is edged by Conn
WILLIMANTIC, Conn. - The Eastern Connecticut State University women's volleyball team fell short in a bid to erase a two-set deficit, as Connecticut College prevailed in a fifth set which featured 16 ties and seven lead changes.
At left: Adrianna Mihalek (Photo by Haley Heslin)
Conn (12-11), coming off last year's NCAA tournament bid, defeated Eastern (13-14) for the fourth straight time in the series, this time by scores of 25-22, 26-24, 20-25, 19-25, 20-18.
After losing the first two sets, Eastern roared back to tie the match by taking the next two before Conn broke the 16th and final tie of the fifth set on a pair of kills from sophomore Gabi Taylor.
With the exception of the Camel's 9-7 lead, neither team led by more than a point in the deciding set until Taylor's two final kills which came off sets from sophomore Kaitlin Cunningham.
Taylor had five of the team's kills in the final set and did not commit an error on nine tries in the deciding set for Conn, which started a junior, four sophomores and two freshmen. The Warriors took their final lead in the final set at 16-15 on a kill from freshman Adrianna Mihalek (Woodbury). Eastern broke match point on a Conn service error that tied the match at 16-all. The Warriors survived match point twice before Taylor's winning kills on Mihalek kills that pulled the hosts even at 17-all, and then again at 18-all. Her tying kill at 18 was a cross-court attack from the left side that landed just inside the right sideline.
Taylor led a balanced Conn attack with 15 kills, sophomore Caroline Martin adding 14, freshman Chloe Ainley 11, junior Anelise Hohl nine and freshman Ella Johnson eight.
Sophomore libero Jamie Balkin handled 37 receptions with only two errors and led all players with 30 digs. Martin collected 21 digs and senior Erin Barker 15. Ainley also had three blocks and Johnson two. Cunningham had 55 assists.
Mihalek led all players in the match with 21 kills, six coming in the final set. Freshman Kay Mullen (Fairhaven, MA) followed with 13 kills and senior Nicki Gasch (New Fairfield) had 12. Sophomore libero Allie Luppi (Tewksbury, MA) received 37 serves with just two errors and led all players in the match with 31 digs. Mihalek dug up 23 balls and senior Erynn Miller (Stratford) had 20 digs and was perfect on 19 reception attempts. Junior Jess Patrizi (Beacon Falls) added 13 digs and recorded 46 assists. Freshman Amanda Tyler (Longmeadow, MA) chipped in six kills and 11 digs and commited only one reception error on 15 attempts.
Facing extinction after dropping the first two sets by a total of five points, the Warriors never trailed after the opening point in the third set, racing to a 12-4 lead and holding off the visitors' attempt at the sweep by scoring the final four points in a five-point victory. Sophomore Bry Kelly (Dunbarton, NH) stopped Conn's momentum with a kill on an overpass to make it 22-20, Eastern, and Mihalek closed it out with three straight kills.
The Warriors tied the match with the six-point triumph in the fourth set.Eastern never trailed after an attack error by Ainley knotted the set at 13-13 and Mullen's kill gave the Warriors the lead for good, 16-15. As it did in the third-set win, Eastern closed with a flourish, recording the final five points after the guests had pulled to within one, 20-19. Gasch and Patrizi accounted for two of those final five points with kills, a Conn attack moved Eastern another point closer, as did block assists from Kelly and Tyler. Tyler put away a Patrizi set to wrap up the win and force the deciding set.
Eastern hosts the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Friday at 7 p.m.
Connecticut College 3, Eastern Conn. 2
Conn College (12-11) 25 26 20 19 20
Eastern Conn. (13-14) 22 24 25 25 18