By David F. Pendrys
WEST HAVEN, CT- Saturday night two teams from the New Haven area faced off for the Northeast 10 Volleyball title. One team, the University of New Haven, was expected to be there, as their number one seed had been well earned during NE10 play throughout the year. The other, Southern Connecticut, had upset their way into the final, after having a very strong season, they were still ranked #7 in a close field of teams. UNH was the favorite, but Southern threw everything they had at the Chargers and nearly pulled off the win.
Charger Gymnasium was rocking for the final, as the Charger faithful had filed in one side along with their pep band. The Southern crowd joined together on the other side and were there in force, as the trip from Wintergreen Ave, was not a far one at all.
SCSU took the lead quickly in set 1 building up to 8-4, only to have UNH come back to tie it at 9. The teams then traded points and the lead up to the 20-20 point. Southern then took the initiative getting up to a 23-20 lead thanks to a UNH error, a Kill from Leanne Jadus, and an Alexandria Jurgens service Ace. UNH snatched two points back thanks to a SCSU error, and an Annika Hacker service Ace. Jadus struck again to make it 24-22, and then she stepped back and served up an Ace to take the set 25-22.
The Owls kept rolling into set 2 getting out to an 8 to 4 lead, then a 14-7 advantage. The Chargers refused to give up the set and fought back to trail only 15-13. SCSU built the lead back up to 19-14, but UNH climbed right back in due to a SCSU error, two kills by Kali Greathead, one by Lexis Peterson, and another Southern error. With the score 19-19, the teams traded points yet again up to 23-23. Caroline Martins picked up a Kill for the Chargers, but Gabriela Vazquez responded for Southern. Mallory Nowicki struck for UNH and a block from Alex Bussey and Kali Greathead stopped an Owl attack and ended the set 26-24.
The match had already proven itself to be wild, and it wasn’t over yet. Southern yet again took the early advantage racing out to a 9-1 lead. New Haven stopped the bleeding briefly but Southern built off the momentum to a 14-5 lead. Again the Chargers did not concede anything and pulled up to within 20-12, but the Owls was lead too great, and even though UNH got to 16 points, Southern made it up to 25.
The UNH fan base were clearly concerned as Southern brought a 2-1 lead into set 4 though this time both teams were going back and forth to a 11-11 tie. New Haven then kicked away to a 16-11 lead due to Kills from Kristine Rios, Kali Greathead, and some Southern errors. SCSU gave chase and the score was soon 20-18 UNH, but the Chargers regained the advantage as Peterson struck twice, Brianna Mirmina served up an Ace, and an SCSU error made it 24-18. The Owls held off the set point twice, but Peterson blocked a UNH attack to end it 25-20.
Now with the odds even, the two teams headed to set 5 which was only to 15 points. New Haven was able to pull away quickly to a 6-4 lead. Peterson got them a Kill and another point, but Jillian Chambers responded for Southern. Greathead responded immediately with a Kill of her own, but a UNH service error kept the Charger lead at 8-6.
Greathead then sent another Kill in and Rios and Bussey blocked a Southern attack for a 10-6 lead. Gage came up with a strike for Southern, but Greathead negated the ground gained. Gage had two more Kills to cut the lead back to 2, but Bussey and then Nowicki used Kills to extend the lead again. Jadus then picked up another SCSU point, and the two teams traded errors, but UNH now had a 14-11 lead and Peterson ended set and match 15-11.
Both teams have more to play for though as New Haven will be hosting their section of Division 2 NCAA Tournament, and SCSU is part of their bracket based on their performance this year. More details will become available.
More information to be added if time allows.