HOUSTON – Although three players recorded double-digit kills, the University of Connecticut volleyball team fell in four sets (15-25, 20-25, 25-21, 20-25) to Houston in a American Athletic Conference match-up on Friday night. With the loss, the Huskies drop to 13-11 (7-6, The American) while the Cougars improve to 16-9 (6-7, The American).
Junior Jade Strawberry (Tallahassee, Fla.) paced the Huskies with 14 kills and eight digs. Senior Immanuella Anagu (Culver City, Calif.) had a stellar showing as she tallied 12 kills on 15 swings for a .733 hitting percentage along with five block assists. Sophomore Kenya Cason (Columbus, Ohio) posted 11 kills, seven digs and three block assists. Junior Rebecca Rivera (Mississauga, Ontario) had a team-high 23 assists while freshman Emma Turner (Winter Park, Fla.) dished-out 11 helpers.
Strawberry earned the first two kills of the match for the Huskies as they trailed 11-5 to start. UConn spent a timeout after Houston tallied four-straight points. Cason caught the back line before Anagu and senior captain Erika Thomas (Ocoee, Fla.) registered the block as the Cougars led 12-9. The Huskies burned its second timeout after Houston went on a 6-2 run. An attack error by Houston followed by a service ace from freshman Kennedy Arundel (Chicago, Ill.) brought the Huskies closer but they were still behind, 20-14. The Cougars had a 5-1 run as UConn dropped the first set, 15-25.
UConn had a 4-2 edge to begin the second set thanks to kills from Cason and Thomas along with two attack errors by the Cougars. Three consecutive points for the Huskies increased their lead to 8-5. Sophomore Tosin Adeniyi (Springfield, Ill.), Anagu and Cason all tallied kills to give UConn an 11-7 edge. Houston pulled within one after getting three kills in a row. Thomas and Anagu got together again at the net for the block but the Cougars responded with two kills to tie the set at 13. The two teams exchanged points to keep things locked at 15 until Houston added three consecutive points to take an 18-15 lead and force the Huskies to burn a timeout. UConn tried to keep the set alive, getting within four to make the Cougars use their first timeout of the match. Out of the break, Houston tallied the kill and UConn fell, 20-25.
Cason got the kill and followed up with an ace to give UConn a 2-0 lead in the third set. Two kills from Strawberry helped the Huskies to a 7-4 advantage and Houston decided to call for time. Cason, Anagu and Strawberry each added kills for the Huskies for a 14-9 lead. Sophomore Danielle Cabel (Bettendorf, Iowa) sent one down the line and redshirt-junior Jessika Long (Sandy, Utah) laid down the spike as UConn opened up the score, 18-11. Houston headed to the bench after freshman Elizabeth Kline (Glenshaw, Pa.) served up an ace as the Huskies were ahead, 22-15. Consecutive kills and an ace by Houston forced the Huskies to the sideline but they were still up 23-20. An attack error by the Cougars handed UConn a set point opportunity and Cabel sealed the deal, 25-21.
Anagu and Cason started the fourth set with an exclamation point after stuffing the ball at the net. The squads traded the next nine points before Houston got out to a 9-5 advantage after stringing together four-straight points. Anagu tallied back-to-back kills to bring UConn within two. The Cougars got out to a 16-12 edge but the Huskies posted four-straight kills to knot the score at 16 and Houston chose to burn a timeout. UConn tied the score two more times but the Cougars went up again, 19-17. Connecticut used a timeout of its own when the Cougars took a 21-18 lead. A block by Thomas and Anagu brought the team within three but it wasn’t enough as the Huskies were setback, 20-25, in the final set.
UConn will conclude its weekend road trip when it visits Tulane on Sunday at 2 p.m.