Upset-minded Panthers give Warriors all they can handle
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 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. 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, N.H.
Plymouth State 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. The Panthers wind up the season with a 13-19 overall record.
Sophomore outside hitter Adrianna Mihalek (Woodbury, Conn.) had five kills in the decisive set and senior setter Allie Henry (Middletown, Conn.) 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 10 wins in 14 home matches.
Junior libero Allie Luppi (Tewsksbury, Mass.) 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, N.H.) and four from Henry, who also totaled 50 assists and two aces. Sophomore defensive specialist Nina Zimmitti (East Hampton, Conn.) chipped in nine digs.
Senior outside hitter Jana Nieman (Fair Lawn, N.J.), ranked eighth in the LEC in kills, led Plymouth with 18 kills with a .313 attack percentage. Sophomore middles Brianna Wojtas (Salem, N.H.) and Mikki Taffe (East Hampstead, N.H.) each added nine kills. Sophomore outside hitter Katie Sylvia (Lee, N.H.) served six aces, junior setter Kirsten Perrotta (Hudson, N.H.) setting 45 assists and freshman defensive specialist Brenna Peruch (Cave Creek, Ariz.) digging 26 balls, Perrotta 17 and Sylvia 14.
(Courtesy of Eastern Connecticut Sports Information)
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