Panthers pick up key LEC win before falling to Clark
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Trailing two sets to one in a key Little East Conference (LEC) match the Plymouth State University women's volleyball team rallied for a 3-2 (21-25, 25-17, 23-25, 25-14, 15-10) come-from-behind victory over Western Connecticut State University at Foley Gymnasium.
PSU dropped a 3-0 (20-25, 17-25, 18-25) decision to Clark University in the nightcap. The Cougars went 2-0 on the day, beating WCSU (25-18, 25-20, 25-15) in the day's middle match. With the two wins, Clark improves to 16-9 on the year, while the Panthers move to 17-9 (3-2 LEC) with the split. Western Connecticut drops to 6-19 (1-4 LEC) with the pair of setbacks.
The Panthers were pushed to the limit by WCSU, as long runs by the Colonials earned the visitors wins in sets one and three. "Offensively we were very good against WestConn," said head coach Chris Kilmer. "We really controlled the majority of the match. Even the sets we lost we had control of until we got stuck in a rotation and gave up a string of points late."
PSU jumped in front 8-3 in the opening set after a kill from freshman Francie Shaffer (Frederick, Colo.) forced a WCSU timeout. The Colonials rallied behind the serve of freshman Skylar Kellam (Fishkill, N.Y.), evening the score at 9-9. Shaffer teamed up with sophomore Alexis Bowers (Port St. Lucie, Fla.) on a block to put the hosts in front 18-14 and PSU extended a 20-15 margin, but Western dug in and won six of the next seven points. With the score knotted at 21-21, the visitors' offense kicked into gear and two kills from junior Kamari King (East Hartford, Conn.) coupled with a kill from classmate Jenna Skerritt (Wolcott, Conn.) and an ace from Mikayla Aubry (Fresno, Calif.) gave WCSU a 25-21 win.
Up 6-5 in the second set, the hosts used six straight kills to build a 12-5 lead. Bowers and junior Ari Linden (Lena, Ill.) both had two kills in the stretch. Another Bowers kill put PSU in front 20-14 and the hosts maintained control on the way to a 25-17 win.
PSU looked poised to take the third set as a Bowers kill gave the Panthers a 16-8 lead. Moments later Shaffer connected to put Plymouth in front 23-16, but the Colonials responded. Following a Panther blocking error, Kellam went on another long service run. Kills from freshman Nicolina Chenard (Ardsley, N.Y.) and Aubry tied the score at 23-23, and following a PSU timeout a miscommunication gave the visitors set point. Chenard pounded a ball through the Panther defense to give the Colonials the improbable 25-23 win.
Plymouth State came back firing on all cylinders in the fourth. The hosts hit an even .500 in the set (15 kills, two errors, 26 attempts). With the score tied 9-9 PSU surged ahead. A trio of Bowers kills, extended the lead to 22-13 and Plymouth coasted to a 25-14 win to set up a decisive fifth set.
The two teams traded the lead in a see-saw battle through the early and middle parts of the set, with neither able to grasp full control. WCSU led 5-3, but the Panthers moved ahead 6-5 following a Western attack error. King had a kill, followed by an ace from junior Jenna Pisano (Orange, Conn.) and WestConn went back in front 7-6. The visitors extended their lead to 9-7 when a Shaffer kill sparked the Panthers. PSU ran two quick points, then a huge solo block from junior Jill Tiner (Salem, N.H.) gave the hosts an 11-9 lead. Bowers had a kill of the WCSU block to push the advantage to 13-10, leading to a Colonials' timeout. Bowers pounded another cross court kill and Linden put away an overpass to secure the 15-10 win.
Bowers led four Panthers in double-digit kills with 15 while hitting .240 and adding 10 digs. Linden added 14 kills without an error to hit .538, while senior Claire Sporer (Medford, Ore.) added 11 kils and 23 digs. Tiner chipped in with 10 kills. Senior Megan Bailey (Canterbury, N.H.) posted 44 assists and 12 digs, with classmate Brenna Peruch (Cave Creek, Ariz.) posting a team-high 24 digs.
Against Clark, the opening set was back and forth until a late surge by the Cougars pushed the lead to 18-10. PSU rallied late, cutting the margin down to four, 23-19, but the visitors held off the rally to capture a 25-20 win. The second and third sets produced similar results with the Panthers sticking close early before Clark was able to pull away late to earn 25-17 and 25-18 victories.
Sporer led the Panthers with nine kills and 15 digs in the late game, with Bowers adding eight kills. Baily posted 25 assists and Peruch added 10 digs for the hosts.
The Panthers remain in LEC play for a pair of matches next week. PSU will face Keene State on Tuesday (6:00 p.m.) before closing the regular season with a Senior Day celebration against Rhode Island College on Saturday (Oct. 28), with game time set for 12:00 p.m.
– 30 –