CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - The University of Connecticut volleyball team dropped a four-set match to Harvard (20-25, 24-26, 25-22, 21-25) on Friday night in its first outing of the New England Challenge. With the setback, the Huskies are now 5-4 while Harvard moves to 3-5.
Junior Jade Strawberry (Tallahassee, Fla.) was just shy of a double-double with nine kills and 10 digs. Senior captain Erika Thomas (Ocoee, Fla.) added nine kills to the mix. Classmate Immanuella Anagu (Culver City, Fla.) finished with eight kills. Sophomore Kenya Cason (Columbus, Ohio) also tallied eight kills along with nine digs. Junior Rebecca Rivera (Mississauga, Ontario) posted 22 assists while freshman Emma Turner (Winter Park, Fla.) chipped in 14 assists. Classmate Kennedy Arundel (Chicago, Ill.) totaled 17 digs.
With five blocks on the night, Anagu moved ahead of Rebecca Murray '10 and now ranks fifth among UConn's all-time blocks leader with 354 career blocks.
UConn and Harvard exchanged points early in the first set before Cason's service ace put the Huskies up 4-2. After going back and forth, the Crimson took the lead but UConn started to close the gap after back-to-back kills from Cason and Anagu. Connecticut took its first timeout after an attack error while Harvard held a 19-14 advantage. Two straight kills from Thomas brought the Huskies within two but they still trailed, 18-20. After consecutive points by Harvard, UConn called for its second breather. The Huskies dropped the first set, 20-25.
The second set started out in favor of the Huskies, with Harvard tallying three early errors and Anagu powering the ball to the back line to give UConn a 4-1 lead. Cason delivered a one-two punch with an ace followed by a kill to increase the Huskies advantage to 7-3. Harvard battled back, tying the score at 9-9 on a block. Three straight kills put the Crimson up 11-9 and forced UConn to call for time. Out of the break, sophomore Tosin Adeniyi (Springfield, Ill.) put down a hard shot to bring the Huskies within one. A kill from Strawberry and attack error by Harvard locked the score at 15. The Crimson quickly went up by two but Strawberry and Adeniyi rallied to knot things up at 17-17. Anagu came up with a huge block to move the Huskies ahead of the Crimson, 19-18, making Harvard call its first timeout of the match. Three straight errors forced the Crimson to ask for their second break while the Huskies held a 22-19 edge. Harvard didn't give up, posting three consecutive kills to force a UConn timeout with the score tied at 23. Back-to-back attack errors gave Harvard the set, 26-24.
The Huskies got out to a quick 2-0 lead to start the third set after kills from Anagu and Strawberry. UConn pushed its lead to 10-4 while Harvard was forced to use a timeout. Anagu made a statement when she followed up her kill with an ace to put UConn ahead 16-9. Harvard took the bench a second time after Strawberry delivered a mean spike to give the Huskies a 17-11 edge. Strawberry followed up with two straight aces for a 20-12 lead. Rivera's ace gave Connecticut a set point opportunity but Harvard wasn't ready to let things end. The Crimson rallied late but still trailed 24-21 while UConn decided to go to the bench to regroup. Thomas' kills sealed the set for the Huskies, 25-22.
Errors plagued the Crimson early in the fourth set, giving UConn a 3-1 edge to get things going. A ball handling error helped the Huskies to a 10-8 lead but Harvard wouldn't be deterred, knotting the score at 11. A Crimson ace and attack error by UConn gave Harvard a 13-11 advantage and made the Huskies call for time. A kill from junior Camille Evans (Chicago, Ill.) brought UConn within one but Harvard continued to pull ahead, taking a 19-15 lead as the Huskies used its second timeout. A kill by Strawberry and error by the Crimson helped pull the Huskies up but UConn dropped the set, 21-25.
The Huskies are back in action tomorrow against Boston College at 10:30 a.m. and will close out the tournament with Northeastern at 4:30 p.m.