Chris Kendrick (@CKendrick86)
CHICOPEE, Mass. – The Elms College women's volleyball team persevered in a five-set battle against visiting Eastern Nazarene College to capture the 3-2 non-conference victory Saturday afternoon at Picknelly Arena. The Blazers improved to 3-12 on the season, while the Lions drop to 3-10 overall.
In the first set, the Blazers used kills from sophomore Danielle Redding (Las Vegas, Nev.) and junior Kate Moriarty (Agawam, Mass.) to grab a 3-0 lead, but the Lions would even the score at 6-6 on a strike from freshman Annie Heller (Hudson, N.H.). Eastern Nazarene held an edge over the Blazers through the middle of the set, taking a 14-10 lead on back-to-back kills from freshman Hailee Owen (South Portland, Maine). The Lions pushed the advantage to 17-11, but the Blazers rallied and a kill from freshman Haley Asselin (South Hadley, Mass.) trimmed the deficit to 18-15. Eastern Nazarene kept Elms at bay with four straight points en route to the 25-17 win.
The Lions controlled a 5-1 lead to open the second set until three straight kills from Redding pulled the Blazers within a point, 6-5. Elms went ahead 10-9 after a pair of aces from Redding, but a kill from Heller kept Eastern Nazarene within a point, 11-10. The Blazers took control with a 7-2 run, featuring two kills from freshman Hannah Adams (Deerfield, Mass.), to build an 18-12 lead. Errors cut into the Blazers lead, and then three kills from Heller, junior Kayla Dean (Lansdale, Pa.) and junior Lauryl Berger (Laurel, Del.) handed the Lions a 22-21 lead. Down 24-22, the Blazers rallied behind kills from Adams and Moriarty to force extra points. Knotted at 26-26, the Blazers closed out the set with a kill from Moriarty and an ace from Adams to secure the 28-26 win.
The squads exchanged the lead in the early points of the third set with a kill from Elms senior Alicia Beaupre (Belchertown, Mass.) tied the match at 11-11. The Lions held the advantage over the next seven points, and a kill from Owen pushed the Lions lead to 19-15. The Blazers whittled away at the deficit behind a pair of kills from Redding to trim the gap to 20-19. Trailing 22-20, Redding delivered a kill and an ace to tie the match at 22-22. After an ace from Dean gave Eastern Nazarene a 24-22 lead, Adams logged a kill, followed by an ace from Moriarty to knot the match at 24-24, and then Moriarty served up another ace after a Lions error to claim the 26-24 win.
In the fourth set, the sides exchanged points in the early going featuring three lead changes and four ties, until a pair of aces from Adams gave Elms an 11-9 lead. Heller and Dean kept the Lions close with a pair of kills apiece, while Redding paced the Blazers with two kills. Trailing 22-20, Moriarty and Redding notched back-to-back kills, followed by a kill and ace from Redding to put Elms up 24-22. The Lions responded by capitalizing on Blazers errors, and then a kill from sophomore Viviana Coix (Warrenville, Ill.) capped off the 27-25 win, forcing a fifth set of action.
Tied at 3-3 in the fifth set, the Lions used a pair of aces from Coix to build a 7-5 advantage. Redding came up huge from the service line, firing three straight aces to regain a 9-7 lead. Blazers errors put Eastern Nazarene ahead 10-9, but consecutive kills from Adams put Elms back on top 11-10. Adams closed out the victory for the Blazers, knocking three kills down the stretch to send Elms to the 15-11 win, and match victory.
Redding powered the Blazers with first career 20-20 performance, slamming a match-high 25 kills with a career-high 23 digs, adding eight aces, three assists and two blocks. Adams tallied a career-high 19 kills with 23 digs and three aces, while senior Carolyn Campbell (Millers Falls, Mass.) logged a double-double with 46 assists and a career-high 17 digs. Moriarty chipped in seven kills, 10 digs and three aces, and senior Alicia Beaupre (Belchertown, Mass.) snagged a career-high 13 digs in the win.
The Lions were led by Heller with a team-high 10 kills and four digs. Owen added eight kills and four blocks, while Dean and freshman Courtney McCarthy (Merrimack, N.H.) had five kills each. Dean added 25 digs, junior Oksana DiCamillo (Eighty-Four, Pa.) snared a match-high 33 digs with four aces, and Berger dished out 27 assists with four digs.
"Today's win is a step in the right direction for us," said Elms Head Coach Sheila Gisbrecht. "We showed some really good fight and played a much more consistent game with fewer peaks and valleys, and really showed a lot of growth. Danielle found a new level of play, which was phenomenal, Hannah stepped up, especially defensively, and then Kate in the middle and back row was huge for us. It was nice to see those three take steps in the right direction, with improved defense by Alicia, and great little contributions by Gabby gave us that edge in a tough fifth set. The team did a lot of mental work in practice to focus on how to push through tough moments, to use communication to help keep play consistent, and to control the speed of play to prevent games from getting out of control. They were definitely more mature in how they handled their on-court communication, and between rally communication. We need to take this step up and continue to build on it, I think they got the hunger and realization that it's within reach and we can do this, and hopefully we'll take it into our first conference match next week."
The Blazers will look to remain in the win column when they open up New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) play with a road trip to Mitchell College Tuesday night for a 6:00 p.m. Eastern Nazarene heads to Suffolk University for a non-conference match Monday at 7:00 p.m.