Panthers to face UMass Boston on Thursday
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Senior Claire Sporer (Medford, Ore.) and sophomore Alexis Bowers (Port St. Lucie, Fla.) combined for 26 kills to lead #4 Plymouth State University to a 3-1 (25-15, 25-17, 18-25, 25-22) win over #5 Western Connecticut State University in the first round of the Little East Conference (LEC) Women's Volleyball Tournament at Foley Gymnasium on Tuesday evening.
PSU improves to 19-10 (4-3 LEC) and advances to Thursday's semifinal round, while WCSU's season ends with an 8-21 (3-4 LEC) mark. The Panthers will face #1 UMass Boston at 7:00 p.m. in semifinal action on Thursday.
"We came out really strong tonight," said head coach Chris Kilmer. "I was really impressed with our focus and energy after the craziness of the last 36 hours. With the flooding on campus, having to relocate for practice yesterday and the uncertainty about the availability of Foley [Gymnasium] until midday today there were a lot of potential distractions, but you could see we were ready to go right from the start and I thought that set the tone for the entire match."
Plymouth State came on firing on all cylinders, hitting .279 and .282 in the first two sets. The Panthers jumped out to a 10-3 lead in the first set after a kill from freshman Francie Shaffer (Frederick, Colo.). A kill from Bowers extended the advantage to 13-4 and back-to-back errors by the Colonials made it 18-7. WCSU made a late run to cut the margin to 24-15, but the Panthers were able to close it out on another Shaffer kill.
Sporer had a pair of kills early as PSU ran out to a 12-4 lead in the second set, forcing an early WCSU timeout. The teams traded points from there, until a late Western Connecticut run made it 22-17 following back-to-back aces from junior Mikayla Aubry (Fresno, Calif.). PSU responded with a kill from junior Ari Linden (Lena, Ill.) and Plymouth State closed out the set 25-17.
The Colonials, who rallied from an 0-2 deficit in the regular season finale on Saturday to secure a playoff spot, showed some of the same resiliency in the third set. Junior Kamari King (East Hartford, Conn.) had one of her match-high 20 kills to put the visitors in front 13-12, a lead Western Connecticut would not surrender. Another King kill put WCSU ahead 18-14, and the visitors closed out the set with a 7-4 run.
PSU used a 9-2 spurt to pull ahead 15-9 after a kill from Sporer. The Colonials were forced to use both timeouts early, but a missed serve from the Panthers sparked a WCSU rally. A kill from freshman Nicolina Chenard (Ardsley, N.Y.), followed by three straight aces from junior Jenna Pisano (Orange, Conn.) and a PSU error knotted the score at 15-15. Plymouth responded with a four point run, highlighted by huge dig from senior Brenna Peruch (Cave Creek, Ariz.) and the Panthers hung on to close out the set, 25-22.
The Panthers put in an excellent defensive effort, recording a season-high 99 digs. Peruch posted a match-high 33 digs, with senior setter Megan Bailey (Canterbury, N.H.) adding a season-best 19 digs to go along with her 38 assists. Sporer (15 kills, 11 digs) and Bowers (11 kills, 13 digs) both recorded double-doubles in the victory.
Western Connecticut had five players record double-digit digs, with freshman Victoria Korzan (Southbury, Conn.) and King both posting 18. Setter Jenna Skerritt handed out 37 assists to go along with her 16 digs, with Pisano and freshman Skylar Kellam (Fishkill, N.Y.) contributing 15 and 10 respectively.
Thursday's semifinal will be a rematch of last year's LEC Tournament Championship. The Beacons have won six straight matches against Plymouth State, including a 3-0 win in the finals last season. The second semifinal features #3 Eastern Connecticut at #2 Keene State, with the two winners meeting in Saturday's championship game at the site of the highest remaining seed.
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