ORLANDO – The University of Connecticut volleyball team dropped a three-set match in its American Athletic Conference opener to UCF (20-25, 19-25, 22-25) on Friday night. With the loss, the Huskies fall to 6-6 overall and 0-1 in The American while the Knights improve to 7-6 overall and 1-1 in league play.
Senior captain Erika Thomas (Ocoee, Fla.) led the Huskies with nine kills. Junior Jade Strawberry (Tallahassee, Fla.) added eight kills and eight digs while sophomore Kenya Cason (Columbus, Ohio) tallied eight kills, five digs and three block assists. Sophomores Tosin Adeniyi (Springfield, Ill.) and Danielle Cabel (Bettendorf, Iowa) along with senior Immanuella Anagu (Culver City, Calif.) notched five kills apiece. Anagu and Adeniyi also had five block assists each. Junior Rebecca Rivera (Mississauga, Ontario) dished 23 assists while freshman Emma Turner (Winter Park, Fla.) finished with 15 assists. Classmate Elizabeth Kline (Pittsburgh, Pa.) totaled a team-best nine digs.
The first set was highlighted by 12 ties are the Huskies and Knights exchanged points until UCF took a slight lead due to unforced UConn errors. The Huskies rebounded to take an 8-7 edge after Thomas and Anagu combined for the block. A service ace by Emma Turner tied the score at 12. The score was once again knotted at 14-14 thanks to a kill by Cabel. However, the Huskies could not maintain their momentum as UCF pulled away to win the set, 25-20.
The second set started off much like the first, with both squads trading points before locking things up at 9-9. UCF managed to jump out to a 13-9 lead after the Huskies tallied multiple errors. A kill by Cason brought Connecticut within five but the Huskies couldn’t seem to find their footing as the Knights continued to increase their lead to claim the second set, 25-19.
The Huskies took an early 8-5 lead in the third set, thanks to three kills by Adeniyi and a service ace by Strawberry. The two teams refused to back down with 13 ties and seven lead changes. Blocks by Adeniyi and Cabel followed by a UCF attacking error gave UConn a 14-13 advantage. UCF quickly rallied but the Huskies were able to hang tight and knot the score at 18 before a kill by Anagu gave them a one-point lead and forced the Knights to use a timeout. Out of the break, UCF grabbed a 21-19 lead but once again, Anagu was there to put one down hard and pulled the Huskies within one. A kill from Thomas kept the set from ending but UConn couldn’t hold on, falling 22-25 in the final set.
The Huskies are back in action on Sunday when they visit USF at 1 p.m.