CINCINNATI – The University of Connecticut volleyball team pulled off a five-set thriller (25-20, 25-22, 19-25, 16-25, 15-11) to upset American Athletic Conference rival Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon at Fifth Third Arena. With the win, the Huskies move to 13-10 (7-5, The American) while the Bearcats fall to 15-8 (7-5, The American).
This is the second time this season Connecticut has defeated Cincinnati in five sets and is currently on a six-game winning streak.
Junior Jade Strawberry (Tallahassee, Fla.) once again led the way with 15 kills and 11 digs for her ninth double-double this season. Sophomore Kenya Cason (Columbus, Ohio) tallied a career- and match-high 21 digs along with 12 kills and three block assists. Senior Immanuella Anagu posted 10 kills and four block assists. Sophomore Tosin Adeniyi (Springfield, Ill.) notched nine kills on 22 attempts for a .318 hitting percentage. Junior Rebecca Rivera (Mississauga, Ontario) notched 28 assists and redshirt-junior Jessika Long (Sandy, Utah) added 21 helpers. Freshman Kennedy Arundel (Chicago, Ill.) had 19 digs in the match.
UConn jumped out to a 6-1 lead to begin the match after Cincinnati tallied four errors and decided to spend its first timeout. Out of the break, two kills by Strawberry and a spike from Adeniyi pushed the advantage to 10-3, in favor of the Huskies. The Bearcats used their second timeout after sophomore Danielle Cabel (Bettendorf, Iowa) laid down a hard spike and Rivera followed up with a service ace to give UConn a 15-6 advantage. The two teams exchanged the next 11 points but the Huskies still had a 20-12 edge after Adeniyi and Cabel got together at the net for the block. Cincinnati began to gain some momentum, scoring four in a row to force UConn to burn a timeout. Blocks from Cason and Anagu helped the Huskies to a 23-18 edge and Strawberry delivered the kill to take the first set, 25-20.
The Huskies had a slight 4-2 edge to start the second set thanks to a kill by Rivera and ace from Anagu. UConn put together three-straight points on kills from Cason and Adeniyi along with an ace by Strawberry but only led by two. Both teams traded blows but Connecticut managed to hold onto a 18-15 lead and send Cincinnati to the bench to regroup. The Bearcats tallied three consecutive points to make the Huskies spend a timeout of their own with the set tied at 18-18. The home squad took its first lead of the game, going up 22-20, and the Huskies headed back to the sidelines. Senior captain Erika Thomas (Ocoee, Fla.), Strawberry and Cabel each added kills to give UConn a one-point lead and force the Bearcats to call for time. When the Huskies took the floor again, Adeniyi caught the back line and a Cincinnati attack error handed UConn the set, 25-22.
Cincinnati opened the third set with a 6-1 run that made the Huskies burn an early timeout. Before long, the Bearcats had doubled up, taking a 14-7 lead. UConn pulled within five on two kills from Cason and a spike by Thomas. Cincinnati responded with four-straight points for a 20-11 advantage as the Huskies used a timeout. Back-to-back kills by Cason helped Connecticut close the gap some as it trailed 16-22 and the Bearcats spent their first timeout. With Cincinnati a point away from taking the set, the Huskies tallied three in a row after a kill from Cason and two attack errors by the Bearcats but UConn was still behind, 19-24. Cincinnati went on to claim the third set, 25-19.
Connecticut went on a 6-2 on kills from three different players along with three Cincinnati errors to start the fourth set. The Bearcats fought back to lock the set at 8-8 and the Huskies chose to burn a timeout. Cincinnati put together a 7-1 run to go ahead 15-9 and force UConn to spend it second timeout. Errors by the Bearcats gave UConn two free points but the visitors still trailed, 12-21. Two kills by Strawberry paired with blocks from Cason and Adeniyi brought UConn within seven but the Huskies fell in the fourth set, 16-25.
The Bearcats begun the final set by calling for time after the Huskies took a 4-2 edge. Adeniyi teamed up with Thomas and Cabel for consecutive blocks. Cincinnati responded with three-straight points to knot the set at 6 but service and attack errors handed the lead back to UConn at the switch. Kills by Adeniyi and Cabel increased the Huskies advantage to 10-7 and the Bearcats used their final timeout. Anagu delivered two crucial kills to help UConn to a 13-9 lead. Cason’s spike gave the Huskies a match point opportunity and a Cincinnati attack error closed the set, 15-11.