GORHAM, Maine -- Four days ago, Eastern Connecticut State University's top three offensive players had more errors than kills in a stunning Little East Conference loss. Saturday, with a first-round LEC playoff road match a near-certain penalty for a loss, the top three attacked at .309 as the Warriors secured a first-round home match with a sweep of the University of Southern Maine at Hill Gymasnium.
Third-seeded Eastern (17-8, 4-3 LEC) and sixth-seeded Southern Maine (20-9, 3-4 LEC) will have a return engagement – this time at Geissler Gymnasium – in the first round of the LEC playoffs Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Eastern, which has advanced to the semifinals of the LEC playoffs twice in the last three seasons, will be one of only two teams to defeat USM on its home court this year after 25-20, 25-17, 25-23 victories. Among the Huskies' home triumphs this year was a sweep of LEC co-champion UMass Boston four days ago.
Later Saturday, Eastern closed out the regular season with a 25-20, 25-18, 25-12 non-conference victory over the University of Maine-Presque Isle (11-21).
In helping Eastern improve to 17-2 in the all-time series against USM, senior Carly Balskus (Hebron) and freshmen Abby Stern (Manchester) and Alaetra Long (Lincoln, NE) combined to attack at .309, with Stern also handling 27 serve receptions without an error and sharing the team lead of 11 digs with senior Michelle Valliere (Lebanon).
Offensively, Stern had 14 kills and a .257 attack percentage, Long 13 kills and a .333 attack percentage, and Balskus six kills and a .375 attack percentage. The trio commited only eight errors on 81 attempts.
Jess Williamson of USM, the LEC kills leader who is also ranked third in attack percentage, led all players with 16 kills and matched Balskus with a .375 attack percentage, but no additional Husky managed more than six. With the exception of Williamson, USM attacked at .125.
In six sets on the afternoon, Balskus attacked at .356 and combined with Long and Stern for 56 kills. Senior Amanda Tourjee (Waterford) led the Warriors with 24 assists, Maneggia and Sopneski each totalling 20. Valliere recorded 40 digs and had five of its 18 service aces, and Stern had a success rate of .963 on 27 recetion attempts.