By David F. Pendrys
NEW HAVEN, CT – The SCSU Owls volleyball team faced a difficult opponent in the AIC Yellow Jackets Tuesday night, but after four sets of close action Southern took the victory 3-1. AIC which had only one loss in the Northeast 10 prior to tonight dropped to 6-2 in conference play, and 13-9 overall. Southern rose to 5-3 in the NE10 and 17-5 on the season with an important win in the standings.
“This is the first game that we really played together, everyone did their job and we just got the job done,” SCSU’s Jillian Chambers said post match.
Leanna Jadus picked up another double-double by striking 17 Kills and picking up 23 Digs defensively and Gabriela Vazquez also added to her double-double total with 12 Kills and 18 Digs. Alexandra Jurgens snagged a double-double as well with 22 Assists and 10 Digs in addition to her 5 Kills.
“I think overall, definitely stepped it up. We all needed to play together, and I contributed what I needed to tonight,” Jurgens said.
Adding to the offense, Alyssa Gage had 14 Kills, and Chambers tallied 5. Anna Venard, the Libero, came up with 27 Digs, and Alexandra Nimz led Southern with 27 Assists.
“I thought I performed very well individually, I struggled in the previous games so I really just wanted to come back and contribute,” Chambers said.
“I think I did pretty good tonight, of course there’s things I need to work on,” Gage admitted but added again that she overall was satisfied with her performance.
Jadus hit for .302 throughout the match, Gage hit for .265, and Chambers hit for a .462 with fewer attempts. The team hit for .205 overall.
SCSU also launched 9 Service Aces, including 4 off the hand of Jadus, and 3 from Venard, with Chambers and Vazquez each adding one apiece. Vazquez had one solo Block and two shared ones, and Jurgens had a solo Block as well as two shared ones as well. Kirstin Colwell took part in 4 Blocks, Gage and Chambers were part of 3 each, Jadus was in on two of them as well.
AIC was led by Jana Potic and her 12 Kills, Annie Boele’s 11, and Arianna Pena-Martinez and her 10 Kills. Potic had a double-double by also picking up 17 Digs. Boele’s 16 Digs also brought her a double-double on the night. Ada-Guilera Martinez and Andrea Dillon contributed 7 Kills as well.
Dolores Kopren had 40 Assists for the Yellow Jackets and 17 Digs earning her a double-double too. Mercy Rivera, the Libero had 23 Digs and CJ Almaraz put up 10 herself. Guilera Martinez had 1 solo Block and a shared block, Boele had one solo Block, and Potic, Pena-Martinez, and Dillon had a shared block each. Guilera Martinez, Kopren, and Boele had the team’s 3 Service Aces.
AIC hit for .121 on the night.
Post game interview with Chambers, Jurgens, and Gage.
Set 1 opened at a blistering pace as Southern pulled out to a 9-3 lead as Jadus was launching Kills, Jurgens had a Kill and a Block, and Venard served up one of her Aces. But AIC took advantage of some SCSU errors to climb back within 3. It would be the Yellow Jackets who then committed attack errors of their own and an Ace from Jadus which soared off a defender and into the seats to put the score back at 14-7.
AIC regrouped during a time out, and pursued Southern. The two teams traded points, which was not going to help AIC get back into it. Gage unleashed a rocket of an attack to end a long volley back and forth and get SCSU to 19-12, but AIC scored 3 quick points thanks in part to an Ace from Potic, and a Kill from Boele which we slammed off the blocking line. The teams exchanged points again, but Guilera Martinez, Pena-Martinez, and Dillon all had a variety of Kills in a row. When Guilera Martinez then served up an Ace, her squad was back within 1. A SCSU time out couldn’t prevent AIC from tying it thanks to a Pena-Martinez slam to the back gap.
Southern rebounded and after a critical defensive save by Jurgens, Vazquez launched a successful wallop. An AIC error gave the Owls a two point lead, and the two teams traded points again with Gage unleashing a blast to make up for a teammate’s service error. Pena-Martinez and Dillon each had Kills to even the score again.
Gage hammered her next spike in, but Potic unleashed a blast of her own to tie the score and got the lead for AIC with another Kill right afterward. AIC attacked into their own net to tie it back up at 26-26 and the teams, now beyond the 25 point mark, exchanged points one more time. Kopren set it well to Guilera Martinez and she uncorked a large spike to take the lead, and Pena-Martinez ended the set with a kill off the Owls blockers for the 29-27 set win. SCSU hit .152 and AIC hit .173 in the wild frame.
“Since it was so close it definitely gave us the momentum to move into the next 3 sets… Our coach really just said to us ‘we need go back and do the things we talked about’ and from then on, the next 3 sets, we keyed in and made sure our game plan, we executed to the best of our ability,” Jurgens explained.
Set 2 went differently. This time the two teams parried to a 14-14 tie. AIC would build small leads but SCSU would respond including 3 Vazquez attacks on the way to a 20-20 tie.
Vazquez again struck and the ball went off a Yellow Jacket and over the scorer’s table. With the serve now SCSU’s she scored an Ace when her offering smacked off a player and also went over the score’s table. On the ensuing play, Jadus made a great defensive save to keep the ball alive, and eventually AIC couldn’t return it. Gage then spiked it off the defense for a 24-20 advantage. AIC regrouped with a time out and scored 3 consecutive points, but Jadus ended the set 25-23 with another mighty swing of her hand. SCSU hit a better .225, though AIC had a .294 hit percentage.
Set 3 was another close one, as AIC earned a slight lead midway through only to have Southern tie it back up and take a lead thanks to another Jurgens strike, two Blocks from Chambers and an AIC error. Once in the lead SCSU didn’t look back. Chambers ended a fierce back and forth with a Kill, and on the ensuing point the ball dropped into the AIC zone in an odd fashion, but a point was a point. Vazquez then blocked a Yellow Jacket’s attack to close out another long back and forth, before Chambers again slammed the ball off the blockers. Before long with the lead growing, Gage bounced the ball off the AIC front line, and Vazquez launched a rocket just in bounds, allowing Venard to end the set with an Ace 25-17. AIC hit a -.023 in the set, and Southern continued to improve to .250.
On to Set 4 the teams went but this time Southern took control and never gave it up. Jadus had served up an Ace to make it 10-5 and AIC called an early time out, but the Owls kept rolling to a 16-9 lead an another AIC time out. The teams traded points, but that would only last for so long. The yellow Jackets did try to pry open the door for a comeback scoring a few points thanks to a Dillon kill and solid defense from Boele to keep plays alive. Southern coach Lisa Barbaro called time at the 21-16 mark and it worked, as even though AIC did score some more, the team marched towards the set win.
“Coach pretty much said that we worked so hard to get to this point, that this is our game. We need to step on the pedal, her words, and make sure that we don’t let them into this game, and that’s exactly what we did,” Jurgens said.
With the score a precarious 23-18, Jadus tipped the attack off the defenders to make it match point. AIC got a reprieve but on another long exchange back and forth, Jadus came up with a key play to keep the ball moving, and later she slammed it off the defensive line to conclude set and match 25-19. SCSU hit .200 but AIC only mustered a .077 hit percentage.
“We had a lot of energy which I think really contributed to the W. We just have to keep the energy going to the next games,” Gage said.
“Losing the first set, and being able to come back and win the next three, that was something we were trying to do all season. The fact that it’s happen is something that will help us in the future,” Jurgens said.
Southern faces Merrimack in an NE10 meeting Friday night. AIC takes on another tough conference foe in Bentley on the 21st.