STORRS, Conn. – The University of Connecticut volleyball team claimed the 2015 Dog Pound Challenge championship with a three-set win (25-19, 25-17, 26-24) over James Madison in Harry A. Gampel Pavilion on Saturday afternoon. The Huskies are now 4-2 on the season while JMU falls to 5-2.
The Huskies were led by sophomore Kenya Cason (Columbus, Ohio), who tallied her first double-double of the season with 11 kills and 13 digs. Junior Rebecca Rivera (Mississauga, Ontario) posted a double-double of her own (20 assists, 10 digs). Seniors Erika Thomas (Ocoee, Fla.) and Immanuella Anagu (Culver City, Calif.) added nine and eight kills, respectively. Freshman Emma Turner (Winter Park, Fla.) finished with 20 assists. Junior Jade Strawberry (Tallahassee, Fla.) and freshman Kennedy Arundel (Chicago, Ill.) notched 11 digs apiece.
As a team, UConn registered eight service aces and hit .269 on the afternoon.
Connecticut came out strong in the first set, opening up an 8-4 lead after to back-to-back Husky kills from Cason and junior Hayley Cmajdalka (College Station, Texas). Anagu slammed the ball into the corner to give UConn a 16-10 advantage and force a JMU timeout. Shortly after, sophomore Tosin Adeniyi’s (Springfield, Ill.) spike pushed the Dukes to take their second breather of the set. Light taps over the net from Anagu and Cason extended the UConn lead to 23-18. Thomas’ kill claimed the set for the Huskies, 25-19.
UConn jumped out to a 7-3 lead after Arundel’s impressive performance on the serve as she strung together three aces. Big time spikes from Adeniyi and Cason followed by a laser from down the middle from Strawberry moved the Huskies to 17-9. Thomas just caught the corner to put UConn ahead 21-14 as the Dukes tried to stay in the game. Strawberry’s ace gave the Huskies the second set, 25-17.
The third set featured 14 ties and five lead changes as JMU and Connecticut went head-to-head. The Dukes went up 2-0 quickly but the Huskies rebounded when Cason put another one in the corner before Turner recorded the ace to draw the first JMU whistle of the set with UConn up 9-6. The rest of the set was a see-saw affair, which included Cason drilling the ball down the line to tie the score at 20. The squads traded blows and knotted the game at 23. An error by UConn resulted in a chance for the Dukes to stay in the match and take the set as they led 24-23. Thankfully, the Huskies successfully defended JMU’s set point opportunity thanks to a crucial kill from Cmajdalka to lock the score at 24-24. JMU’s late attack error gave the Huskies a 25-24 edge, which Strawberry capitalized on with her second straight set-winning ace. UConn took the set, 26-24.
Anagu was named the Most Valuable Player of the Dog Pound Challenge. Cason, Strawberry and Turner made the All-Tournament team.
The Huskies are back in action on Friday, Sept. 12 at the Dartmouth Tournament against West Virginia at 5 p.m.
2015 Dog Pound Challenge MVP: Immanuella Anagu, UConn
2015 Dog Pound Challenge All-Tournament Team:
- Kenya Cason, UConn
- Emma Turner, UConn
- Jade Strawberry, UConn
- Meghan Niski, James Madison
- Taylor Austin, James Madison
- Sherelle Walker, UMBC
- Sophie Hoekstra, Bryant