STORRS, Conn. – Four different Huskies tallied double-digit kills as the University of Connecticut volleyball team clinched a five-set thriller (25-21, 22-25, 13-25, 25-18, 15-12) over American Athletic Conference foe Cincinnati on Friday night at the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. With the triumph, UConn moves to 7-7 (1-2, The American) while Cincinnati falls to 9-5 (1-2, The American).
Sophomore Kenya Cason (Columbus, Ohio) led the way with a match-high 16 kills on a .364 hitting percentage and also scooped 15 digs for her double-double performance. Junior Jade Strawberry (Tallahassee, Fla.) was close behind with her own double-double (14 kills, 13 digs). Sophomore Tosin Adeniyi (Springfield, Ill.) added 11 kills while freshman Danielle Cabel (Bettendorf, Iowa) tied her career-high with 10 kills. Seniors Immanuella Anagu (Culver City, Calif.) and Erika Thomas (Ocoee, Fla.) tallied nine and seven kills apiece, respectively. Anagu also had six blocks on the night. Freshman Kennedy Arundel (Chicago, Ill.) posted a match-best 18 digs while classmate Emma Turner (Winter Park, Fla.) dished 27 assists. Junior Rebecca Rivera (Mississauga, Ontario) notched a match-high 34 assists.
Cincinnati began the opening set with a 7-4 lead before kills from Cason and Adeniyi brought the Huskies within one. UConn tallied three straight points thanks to spikes laid down by Strawberry and Anagu and a Bearcat attacking error. The change in momentum was enough to force Cincinnati to call the first timeout of the match. Out of the intermission, the two teams exchanged points, locking the score at 13-13 but a kill by Cabel and blocks from Adeniyi and Cason gave the Huskies a 15-13 lead. Connecticut continued to pound away, going up 20-17 after another spike by Cason. Turner delivered the service ace to boost the Huskies advantage while Adeniyi’s slam gave UConn a 24-20 edge. Cabel just caught the back line to seal the set, 25-21.
The second set was a back-and-forth battle that featured 14 tie scores. Both squads exchanged points early to remain locked before UConn took a 12-10 lead on kills from Cason and Anagu. The upper hand didn’t last long as Cincinnati made up the ground with a kill and block. The Huskies and Bearcats tied the score seven more times before Cincinnati benefitted from two UConn errors and a kill from Jordan Thompson to go ahead 21-19, making the Huskies call for time. Connecticut rallied out of the break, knotting the score at 21-21 after Strawberry posted the kill and Anagu added the ace. However, it wasn’t enough to halt the Bearcats as the Huskies dropped the set, 22-25.
The Bearcats came out quickly in the third set, going on a 12-6 run before UConn needed to take a moment to regroup. The Huskies pulled within four after Strawberry sent one down the line but Cincinnati strung together six points to force UConn to use another timeout. Cason and Cabel helped push the Huskies closer but the Bearcats held them off to take the set, 25-13.
Connecticut showed its determination in the fourth set, which started out airtight until the Huskies took a 9-7 edge on a kill from Cason and block by Adeniyi to force Cincinnati to head to the bench. Cason and Adeniyi put together three points from the Huskies for a 12-7 lead. UConn kept the barrage going, as Anagu and Thomas helped push the Huskies out to an 18-12 advantage. Cason added a mean spike to Rivera’s ace and the Bearcats attacking error to give UConn a 23-16 edge as Cincinnati decided to use another timeout. The Bearcats tried to capitalize on two UConn errors but Anagu and Cason joined forces for the block and another Cincinnati error gave the Huskies the set, 25-18.
UConn went up 5-4 in the final set, grabbing a one-point edge after kills from Strawberry and Adeniyi. Cincinnati quickly made up the difference and kept the score knotted until Cason’s spike gave the Huskies a one-point lead and the Bearcats decided to ask for a breather. Right out of the time, the Huskies committed an error but didn’t let it get them down. Strawberry and Thomas both nicked the line after a Bearcats’ error to take a 12-9 lead and send Cincinnati back to the bench. Thomas sent the ball flying for the kill and Adeniyi followed it up with a scorcher to the right corner. Strawberry added the finishing touch for UConn to grab the match.
Connecticut will close out the weekend homestand with a 1 p.m. conference match against Memphis on Sunday.
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