STORRS, Conn. – The University of Connecticut volleyball team wrapped up play at the 2014 UConn Invite with a split against Bryant (25-21, 27-29, 26-24, 25-18) and Hofstra (19-25, 25-27, 25-20,20-25) on Saturday at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. The Huskies, who finished second at the tournament, now stand at 7-4 in 2014.
Game 1 vs. Bryant
Sophomore outside hitter Jade Strawberry (Tallahassee, Fla.) earned her first start of the season and recorded a double-double (11 kills, 15 digs) to go along with a pair of block assists. Immanuella Anagu continued her strong tournament, notching a team-best 15 kills and a spectacular .591 hitting percentage, as well as six total blocks. Setters Rebecca Rivera and Sage Esposito (Milford, Conn.) split duties, finishing with 27 and 18 assists, respectively. Senior Datti anchored the Husky defense, scooping 18 digs and contributing three service aces.
The Huskies finished the game with a .247 team hitting percentage and never hit below .231 during any of the match’s four sets.
With the victory, UConn now stands at 2-0 against the Northeast conference this season. The match also marked the first-ever meeting between the two programs.
Anagu and Strawberry propelled the Huskies out to an early 4-2 lead before Bryant drew even with two aces. The teams traded points to 16-16 until the Huskies grabbed the lead for good when Katherine Towslee (Woodinville, Wash.) and Maugle picked up back-to-back kills. With the Huskies leading, 21-19, Bryant motioned for timeout but could not slow the Husky momentum. Thomas connected on the final two points for the Huskies, who took the set, 25-21.
Bryant came out strong in the second frame, staking itself to a 9-3 lead and drawing a Husky whistle. The Bulldogs continued their strong play at the net, using a combo block to push the lead to eight. Bryant maintained the eight point edge at 19-11 but UConn came roaring back, scoring seven of the next nine points to pull within three. A Husky service error gave Bryant a 22-18 lead but the Huskies again pushed back. With Datti serving, the Huskies made a 4-to-0 run, fueled by an ace and a Strawberry kill. The Huskies could not finish off their foes and the match went back-and-forth until each team had 27. An Elena Lohr kill gave Bryant the lead and the Bulldogs finished strong, combing for a block on Maugle’s attack attempt.
The third set was tight with each team grabbing 13 points. A ball-handling error gave UConn a 20-19 lead and the Huskies moved ahead by two when Tosin Adeniyi (Springfield, Ill.) placed a perfect attack that found the ground in the back corner of the court. Bryant drew even at 24 before a Strawberry Kill and Bulldog attack error gave UConn a 26-24 victory and a 2-1 set lead in the match.
The Huskies carried over momentum for the third set, scoring eight of the first 10 points and forcing a Bryant stoppage. After the breather, Amy Christensen (Ashburn, Va.) delivered a service ace followed by a Towslee kill that pushed the Husky edge to 15-11. A Strawberry ace brought the Huskies to within three points of the match victory before Adeniyi finished off the frame with a kill.
Game 2 vs. Hofstra
Cason posted a stellar night in UConn’s loss to the Pride, finishing with a career-high 19 kills and four service aces. The outside hitter attempted 50 total attacks and hit .200. Esposito narrowly missed a double-double, chipping in 15 assists to go along with eight digs. Towslee connected for a team-best .217 hitting percentage and recorded eight digs in the setback.
The Huskies opened the first frame on a 5-to-3 run, helped by back-to-back kills from Anagu and Cason. Hofstra knotted things up at 15 and scored four of the next five points to force a UConn clock stoppage. Two quick kills after the timeout drew another home whistle and the Huskies couldn’t find their footing, surrendering the final four points of the set.
Neither team could grab an early advantage in the second as an Adeniyi kill gave the Huskies a slim 10-9 lead. The Pride battled back and reclaimed a two-point lead but Adeniyi again answered the call delivering consecutive kills to draw UConn even at 16. A 3-to-0 run saw UConn use its first timeout but the Huskies regrouped and pulled within one against a block assist from Anagu and Towslee. The teams traded points to 25-25 but the Huskies committed two-straight attack errors and fell, 27-25, in the set.
Connecticut could not be denied in the third set, sticking itself to a 10-8 lead, helped in large part to three straight service aces from Cason. A pair of Husky ball-handling errors pushed the score even at 11 but the home team rattled off seven straight points with Esposito serving to move ahead, 21-14. The Pride got within four but a Thomas and Adeniyi combo blocked pushed the team to the brink of the set victory and on the next point a Pride attack error sealed the win.
The teams traded the first 18 points of the fourth set before Hofstra broke out on a 4-to-1 run and drew a UConn timeout. The Pride pushed their advantage to four and would not let the Huskies get any closer than three, eventually winning the set, 25-20.
The Huskies began play in the American Athletic Conference on Wednesday, Sept. 24 when they welcome Temple to Gampel for a 7 p.m. match.