STORRS, Conn. – The University of Connecticut volleyball team pulled off its second-straight five-set thriller (25-23, 21-25, 21-25, 25-18, 15-11), downing East Carolina to earn another American Athletic Conference victory on Friday afternoon in Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. With the win, the Huskies move to 9-10 (3-5, The American) while the Pirates fall to 10-8 (3-4, The American).
Junior Jade Strawberry (Tallahassee, Fla.) paced the team with a career-high 24 kills along with 14 digs for her sixth double-double of the season. Sophomore Kenya Cason (Columbus, Ohio) followed up with a double-double of her own (16 digs, 15 kills). Senior captain Erika Thomas (Ocoee, Fla.) registered double-digits with 11 kills. Junior Rebecca Rivera (Mississauga, Ontario) tallied 38 assists while freshman Emma Turner (Winter Park, Fla.) had 24 helpers. Junior Hayley Cmajdalka (College Station, Texas) earned nine kills on a .467 hitting percentage. Off the bench, senior Immanuella Anagu (Culver City, Calif.) added five kills, three blocks and two digs.
UConn and ECU traded points to get the match started, eventually locking the score 8. The Huskies strung together three-straight points on a kill and service ace from Cason and a ball handling error by the Pirates to go up 11-10, forcing ECU to use a timeout. Out of the break, the two teams went back to trading blows, knotting the set at 14. Connecticut went on a 9-3 run that featured four kills by Strawberry and an ace from Arundel to send the Pirates back to their bench. ECU tried to rally late, getting within two to make UConn spend a timeout. A Pirates kill brought the Huskies lead to 23-22 but kills by Strawberry and sophomore Danielle Cabel (Bettendorf, Iowa) gave UConn the set, 25-23.
ECU went ahead 10-7 early in the second set and after consecutive errors, the Huskies decided to call for time. Strawberry tallied four kills while Cason laid down two of her own to bring UConn within one as the Pirates led, 17-16. An attack error and ECU kills sent Connecticut back to the bench to regroup. Both teams exchanged the next eight points and UConn still trailed 20-23. An attack error by the Pirates brought the Huskies within three but it wasn’t enough and UConn dropped the set, 21-25.
The Huskies took a 7-4 lead to start the third set before the Pirates tied things up at 9-9. Even though Arundel served a beautiful ace, the Huskies chose to use a timeout as ECU led 15-11. UConn tried to get close with kills from sophomore Tosin Adeniyi (Springfield, Ill.) but were still down 13-19. A block from Anagu and Thomas and kills by Cason boosted the Huskies to within three but they still fell, 21-25.
Connecticut had a 4-1 edge in the fourth set until ECU tied the score at 7. Four consecutives kills by the Pirates forced the Huskies to ask for a break. Back on the floor, UConn rallied and a block by Anagu and Thomas locked the set at 12-12. ECU spent its first timeout of the set after the Huskies jumped out to a 17-13 advantage as Anagu, Rivera and Cason posted kills. Two kills, a Pirates attack error and ace by freshman Iman McGary (Rockford, Ill.) put UConn ahead 21-15. Thomas and Adeniyi smacked down spikes to increase the Huskies’ lead and Arundel delivered the ace to close the set, 25-18.
The Huskies opened up the fifth set on a 7-1 run that ended with back-to-back lasers by Thomas as ECU used a timeout. The Pirates came back with a run of their own to turn the tables and force UConn to call for time with the score knotted at 8. Two kills from Cmajdalka and another ace by Arundel gave the Huskies a 12-9 lead and sent ECU back to its bench. Cason’s spike and two ECU errors helped UConn to a 14-10 advantage. A Connecticut attack error brought the Pirates within three. After the point, ECU looked to keep the match going but faulted on the serve to hand the Huskies the victory, 15-11.
UConn is back in action at home on Friday, Oct. 23 against Tulane for its annual Dig Pink match at 7 p.m.