BOSTON, Mass. – The Eastern Connecticut State University women's volleyball team shocked the University of Massachusetts Boston in straight sets a year ago in its Little East Conference opener at Geissler Gym. Saturday, they weren't very far from repeating an upset.
UMass (11-1, 2-0 LEC), which rebounded from its only LEC regular-season loss last year to capture its sixth conference tournament title in seven years, was on the brink of facing Eastern (9-5, 0-2 LEC) in a decisive fifth set Saturday before rallying from a 22-20 deficit in the fourth set to overtake the Warriors and gain a four-game victory at the Clark Athletic Center.
The Warriors rallied from two sets down to claim the third set by scoring five of the final six points, and were within four points of a win in the fourth set before the Beacons rallied from two points down to close things out with a three-point victory.
Game scores were 17-25, 10-25, 25-22, 22-25.
Eastern responded from the 15-point loss in the second set, avoiding the sweep in the third set when senior middle Kay Mullen (Fairhaven, MA) tied the match at 21-all and junior libero Michelle Valliere (Lebanon) served three straight points to move Eastern to within a point of the win. Junior Carly Balskus' (Hebron) only kill of the set on an assist from senior Fabiana Della-Monica (Newark, DE) competed the win and gave the team life.
Hoping to force a final 15-point fifth set, Eastern broke early in the fourth set when senior libero Nina Zimmitti (East Hampton) served the opening three points – seniors Ashley Adams (Mystic) and Adrianna Mihalek (Woodbury) picking up early kills.
Eastern led by as many as six points and by four in the latter stages of the fourth set before UMB used a 6-2 run to finally pull even, 21-21. Junior Caryn Sibiskie's (Rockfall) kill provided the Warriors with their final lead, 22-21 and the hosts used an Eastern service error, a service ace and consecutive kills from Colleen Koen to close out the three-point win.
Mihalek (13) and Mullen (9) combined for 22 kills for Eastern, which attacked at well under its season percentage of .224 with a mark of .070. Mihalek also shared the team lead with Valliere with ten digs and was perfect in receiving 12 serves. Valliere handled 23 of 24 receptions for a .958 percentage. Della-Monica had 11 assists and three service aces and sophomore Leah Sopneski (Deep River) 12 assists.
Koen helped the Beacons to a .273 attack percentage (.391 in the first-set win) with 12 kills and a .360 attack percentage, with first-team All-LEC hitter Julia Murphy adding ten kills and a .261 percentage. Eileen Shi had eight kills and seven service aces and first-team All-LEC pick Elizabeth Glavan 17 digs.
Eastern visits Connecticut College Tuesday at 7 p.m. in a non-conference match.