By David F.P.
STORRS, CT-The Brown Bears made the trek to Gampel to open the UConn Toyota Classic versus the Southern Illinois Salukis, the team that traveled the farthest. Brown was opening their season, but SIU came in 2-1 including a victory over Alabama.
As always with recaps I tend to focus on the offensive, as it is hard enough to follow the fast paced action, but this is not to in any way downgrade the importance of key sets and key defensive plays. I do note defensive saves whenever I have time to write them down.
In set 1, Brown gave the Salukis a battle pulling out to a 20 to 17 lead before SIU rebounded and fought things to a 25-25 tie. Southern Illinois than closed the set with a 2 point win.
Highlights from the set for SIU include Sydney Clark and Rachael Brown each picking up key defensive saves in an early rally, and Clark later sent a kill in for the point. Jasmine Conner received a set and used it well for the team’s third point. Much of the scoring afterward was due to various errors on either side, until Alicia Johnson and Alysia Mayes came up for a block for the eleventh point. Brown did a fake set turned into an attack later in the set. The team’s libero Bailey Yeager served up an Ace when her serve hit the net and dropped into a gap. Johnson unleashed what would be one of many big kills during the weekend, and added a service Ace soon afterward.
Brown’s highlights included Emma Pastore sending a kill off multiple defenders and out of bounds, and later doing a similar feet. She laced a third spike a little later just in bounds. Katrina Post whapped an attack of the SIU defenders and later found a gap in the front part of the defense to send the ball into. Both helped contribute to Brown’s lead, and Jackie Feiler added a service ace to get the score to 17-20 before the Saluki’s began their charge. Brianna Williamson added a smash soon afterward as well.
Set 2 opened to an 8-8 tie, but Brown would add only 3 more points the entire set, and the Salukis picked up a 25-11 win.
Highlights for SIU included Conner and Johnson picking up kills to keep the team running with Brown early on, and Brown tapped the ball over to tie it at 8. Jennifer Berwanger opened things up with a cross court missile to take the lead, and Conner’s block and Mayes’ service ace (another ball hitting the net) pulled out to the lead that would not be relinquished. With the lead continuing to grow Conner added a block on an errant Brown set, and later picked up a big kill. Mayes sent a spike in from the net and added a backhanded attack. A pair of Yeager service Aces put the team within one of victory and they closed the deal.
For Brown, Pastore opened the set with a smash, Christina Berry sent a kill through the block. Later in the set, libero Annika Gliottone came up with many of her key defensive saves.
Set 3 opened with each side tied at 2-2, but SIU blew ahead and won with a second 25-11 to take the set and the match.
Highlights for Southern Illinois included Rachael Brown’s turning spike, Conner sent a spike off the d and out of bounds. Berwanger unleashed an absolute smash, and Mayes had a put down at the net and another tap over the net. It didn’t result in points, Brown and Johnson each had key defensive plays and Brown added a fake set over as well. Johnson absolutely hammered a ball set to her later on, and a sent a blast flying into the opponent’s zone as well. A Jessica Whitehead service ace put the team within one and the win came soon afterward.
Brown had more saves from Gliottone, as well as Williamson hammering another attack. Rieckoff sent a tap off the block, and Williamson blasted a spike to the corner later on.
Each team would face two other opponents during the tournament.