STORRS, Conn. – The University of Connecticut volleyball team finished opening day of the 2015 season with a split against Hartford and Rhode Island on Saturday at the Hartford Volleyball Gym.
Game 1 vs. Hartford
Senior captain Erika Thomas (Ocoee, Fla.) and junior Jade Strawberry (Tallahassee, Fla.) delivered nine kills apiece in UConn’s straight sets victory (25-12, 25-19, 25-23) over Hartford. In addition, Strawberry added five digs.
Senior Immanuella Anagu (Culver City, Calif.) started the 2015 campaign strong with eight kills on 11 attempts for an impressive .727 hitting percentage. She also delivered three digs, three block assists and two service aces.
Junior Rebecca Rivera (Mississauga, Ontario) tallied a match-high 20 assists while freshman Emma Turner (Winter Park, Fla.) shined in her Husky debut with 15 assists. Sophomore Kenya Cason (Columbus, Ohio) had a team-best nine digs and added seven kills to the mix.
As a team, UConn picked up eight block assists. Strawberry recorded the Huskies’ lone solo bock of the match. Connecticut also held their in-state rival to an overall .080 hitting percentage.
The Huskies jumped out to a quick 7-3 advantage in the first set after tallying four consecutive points. They continued to dominate, opening up the scoring with a 20-10 lead to force the Hawks to burn a timeout. UConn quickly took the first set, 25-12.
Connecticut was firing on all cylinders to start the second set, moving ahead by a score of 14-7. Hartford responded with two kills of its own before needing to take a timeout due to Husky kills by Rivera and Thomas. The two teams traded points before the Hawks’ errors caught up with them for good. Anagu registered the set-winning kill on a beautiful assists from Rivera.
Hartford were determined early in the third set, charging out to a 7-2 lead. However, the Huskies took it all in stride, stringing together a 8-0 run thanks in part to two service aces by Turner and two kills from Strawberry. UConn earned four straight points to go up 17-11 and force another timeout by the Hawks. Hartford responded with four points of its out to make the Huskies go to the bench for a breather. Errors on both sides put the score at 24-23 in favor of the Huskies before Cason came through with the decisive kill to give UConn the set, 25-23.
Game 2 vs. Rhode Island
Despite Thomas leading the charge with 10 kills, the Huskies dropped a four-set match to Rhode Island (22-25, 25-19, 19-25, 16-25).
Strawberry finished with 11 digs, eight kills and three blocks. Anagu also had eight kills on the evening along with three block assists.
Her first time in an UConn uniform, freshman Kennedy Arundel (Chicago, Ill.) tallied a team-high 15 digs. Sophomore Danielle Cabel (Bettendorf, Iowa) also shined in her debut with seven kills. Once again, Rivera had a team-best 21 assists and Turner posted 16 of her own.
The first set was a battle of wills, which included eight ties and six lead changes. It wasn’t until UConn had a 20-18 lead after a kill by Cason and an error by URI that the Rams decided to take a timeout. URI came out of the break swinging, going on a 7-2 run to claim the first set, 25-22.
UConn responded early in the second set with back-to-back kills by Thomas but only managed to tie the score at 3-3. A kill by Cason brought the Huskies within one with URI leading 7-6. A powerful strike by Anagu tied things at 8-8, which was the fifth draw of the set. The Rams were forced to their bench after consecutive attack errors gave UConn a 15-13 lead. Before long, URI decided to take another timeout after Anagu put the Huskies up 22-16. Strawberry and Anagu slammed down kills as UConn grabbed the win, 25-19.
URI tested the Huskies in the third set as UConn went up 4-2 to start things out but before long both teams were refusing to relinquish the lead with the score tied at 12. The Rams managed to grab a 19-16 advantage as UConn called for time. The Huskies quickly had to take a second timeout after the Rams jumped out to a 23-18 lead but weren’t able to catch up, dropping the third set, 25-19.
The Rams got out quick in fourth set and before long, they were sporting a 14-7 advantage over UConn. The Huskies refused to give up, battling back to within six. However, Connecticut couldn’t make up the difference and lost the set, 25-16.
The Huskies will take the court tomorrow at 3 p.m. against Syracuse in Gampel Pavilion for its home opener and final match of the UConn Invite.
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