STORRS, Conn. - The University of Connecticut volleyball team opened the 2014 UConn Invite with a five-set victory over Columbia (25-20, 19-25, 16-25, 25-12, 15-13) on Friday night at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. With their third-straight win, the Huskies improve to 6-3, while the Lions drop to 3-4.
Senior tri-captain Devon Maugle (Plymouth Meeting, Pa.) delivered a double-double performance, slamming down 14 kills and scooping 10 assists. Junior middle blocker Immanuella Anagu (Culver City, Calif.) notched a team-best 15 kills and hit .321. Captain Brianna Datti recorded 12 digs, while sophomore setter Rebecca Rivera was credited with 27 assists. Senior Sage Esposito (Milford, Conn.) posted a solid showing, notching 24 helpers and also contributing a pair of service aces.
Columbia came out of the gate hot, moving ahead 3-1, but the Huskies answered quickly, taking the lead after a Thomas kill and a Cason solo block. Connecticut pushed its advantage to four after Evans dropped a perfectly-placed attack, but the Lions responded with a 4-0 run to pull even at 11. The teams remained even for the next eight points before Thomas and Cason delivered monster kills to give the Huskies a two-point edge. After Columbia pulled within one, the Huskies committed back-to-back errors and the Lions grabbed the lead, 20-19. With Maugle serving, Anagu rose to the occasion, delivering consecutive kills to give UConn the one-point advantage. Cason followed up with her sixth and seventh kills of the set before a Maugle service ace ended the frame, 25-20. The Huskies finished the set with a .273 team hitting percentage.
The Lions again earned the early edge in the second set, jumping out 5-2. A combo block from Anagu and Adeniyi inched the Huskies closer but Columbia took advantage of two Husky errors and opened its biggest lead of the set at 10-5 before the Connecticut bench whistled for time. After the break, UConn rushed out on a 7-to-3 run that forced a Lions' timeout. UConn couldn't get closer than within one after committing two attack errors. Down, 20-16, UConn used its last timeout and couldn't find any momentum during the final eight points of the frame, dropping the set, 25-19.
A block assist extended the Columbia advantage to four but Maugle stepped up and delivered two-straight kills over the Lions' middle blockers to cut the lead to two. The Huskies opted to use their first timeout of the set but couldn't slow the Columbia attack, which opened up a 4-0 run. UConn grabbed one back but again the visitors re-grouped to rattle off three straight and take a 17-10 lead. The Huskies couldn't get any closer, dropping the set, 25-16.
The Huskies came out with energy in the third set, grabbing an 8-4 edge and drawing a Columbia whistle. Following the stoppage, Maugle and Adeniyi posted back-to-back kills and the Huskies opened a 10-4 set lead. Maugle did not take her foot off the gas, delivering two kills and pushing UConn ahead, 13-5. With UConn lead, 16-8, Jade Strawberry (Tallahassee, Fla.) connected for three kills sandwiched around an Anagu strike. After an attack error by the visitors, Strawberry sealed the win, 25-12.
The Huskies started off quickly in the decisive fifth set, taking a 2-0 lead. Columbia drew even at six but Anagu had an answer, taking advantage of a free ball and pushing the Husky lead to 8-6. After consecutive kills from Strawberry and Thomas, Columbia had to call for time, down 11-8. Columbia knotted things up at 12, pushing the Huskies into a breather. A miscommunication by the Lions gave Maugle her 14th kill of the night and the Huskies were able to finish the match off when Katherine Towslee (Woodinville, Wash.) slammed home a kill.
The Huskies round out tournament play tomorrow with a pair of matches against Bryant and Hofstra. First serve vs. the Bulldogs is set for 12:30 p.m.