Sporer's double-double not enough as Panthers fall to Owls
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Keene State College secured the #2 seed for next week's Little East Conference (LEC) women's volleyball tournament after defeating Plymouth State University, 3-1 (25-13, 32-30, 20-25, 25-17) at Foley Gymnasium on Tuesday evening.
Plymouth State (17-10, 3-3 LEC) falls into a three-way tie for third place in the LEC, while the Owls, with the help of Southern Maine's 3-2 upset win over UMass Boston, are regular-season co-champions. UMass Boston will be the #1 seed in the conference tournament after knocking off the Owls last week.
Senior Claire Sporer (Medford, Ore.) was solid for the Panthers, recording her eighth double-double of the season. The 5-6 outside hitter finished with a team-high 13 kills and added 11 digs and three aces. Junior Ari Linden (Lena, Ill.) added eight kills, with sophomore Alexis Bowers (Port St. Lucie, Fla.) contributing seven kills and nine digs. Senior Megan Bailey (Canterbury, N.H.) posted 33 assists, and classmate Brenna Peruch (Cave Creek, Ariz.) totaled 17 digs and three aces in the setback.
PSU jumped out to a quick 8-4 lead in the opening set, but KSC senior Rachel Lamica (Malone, N.Y.) served ten straight points for the Owls. Keene remained in control through the remainder of the set to win 25-13.
The second set turned into a back-and-forth battle. A Linden kill put PSU ahead 13-10, but Keene battled to even the score at 19-19. Plymouth jumped ahead 22-19, but the Owls rattled off three straight to even the match again. Another Linden kill gave the hosts their first set point, 24-23, but Keene held on. PSU had chances to close out the set at 25-24, 28-27 and 30-29, but each time the Owls were able to survive and ultimately run three-straight points for a 32-30 win.
"I thought we had the second set," said head coach Chris Kilmer, "but we just couldn't get that final point. We had four chances to close it out, but Keene just kept answering. They had three set-points that we fought off. It was just an old-fashioned battle and we came up on the short end."
Down 0-2 the Panthers rallied, playing their most complete set of the day. Bowers put the hosts up 12-7 with a booming kill and the Panthers extended the lead to 19-12 after a KSC error. The Owls chipped away, cutting the deficit to 19-17, but PSU answered and a kill and ace from Sporer gave Plymouth State a 25-20 win.
"I liked our response in the third," added Kilmer. "We showed some mental toughness coming back from that tough second set. Our offense started clicking a bit better, but we weren't able to carry that momentum into the fourth."
Keene took an early lead in the fourth set. A kill from Bowers cut the lead to 12-9, and moments later an ace from senior Grace Sporer (Medford, Ore.) brought the Panthers to within one at 13-12, but the Panthers couldn't quite grab the lead. Keene State regained control and a kill from sophomore Jennifer Severino (Galloway, N.J.) put the visitors up 18-14. Freshman Francie Shaffer (Frederick, Colo.) cut it to 21-16 with a kill, but the Owls used a 4-1 run to close out the set, 25-17.
The Panthers wrap up the regular season with a final LEC contest on Saturday. PSU will host Rhode Island College on Senior Day for a noon match.
"The middle of the conference is all bunched up," said Kilmer. "There are five teams all fighting for the last four playoff spots so we've got to take care of business on Saturday."
– 30 –