WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – Sophomore outside hitter Abby Stern (Manchester) collected 20 kills and attacked at .500 and sophomore outside Alaetra Long (Lincoln, NE) had a team-high 15 digs to lead the Eastern Connecticut State University women's volleyball team to straight-set non-conference victories over Mitchell College and Nichols College in its 2018 home-openers Saturday afternoon at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.
All 14 healthy players appeared in at least two sets as Eastern (3-0) defeated Mitchell (0-2) 25-13, 25-9, 25-10 and Nichols College (1-2) 25-9, 25-11, 25-12. Nichols swept Mitchell 25-20, 25-14, 25-16.
With 20 kills, two service aces and a block assist, Stern topped all Eastern players with 22.5 points. Last year's Little East Conference Rookie-of-the-Year, Stern also had a .917 reception percentage on 12 attempts. Long, who teamed with Stern last year to form a formidable 1-2 freshman punch, contributed 19.5 points with 12 kills, six service aces and three block assists.
Six-foot All-State freshman middle hitter Anna Barry (Andover), who had nine kills in her collegiate debut Friday night in a five-set non-conference road win over Regis College, added 13.5 points with nine kills (and a .353 attack percentage), two solo blocks and five block assists in her home debut. Also in double figures with 12.5 points was senior middle Carly Balskus (Hebron), who chipped in eight kills, four service aces and a block assists. Balskus has 13 service aces in 11 sets this year.
The Warriors attacked at .377 as a team (with their opponents limited to -.087), and recorded 24 service aces against only eight errors.
Junior Mckenzie Maneggia (Andover) and senior Leah Sopneski (Deep River) combined for 48 set assists, with freshman libero Madison Bell (Salem) registering 12. Long, Bell (13), Stern (11) and Maneggia (9) combined for 48 digs. Behind Long's team-high six service aces were Balskus, Maneggia and Bell with four each.
Nichols rebounded after being swept by WPI in its season-opener to sweep Mitchell in Saturday's second match. The Bison used a 14-4 run to move out to a 16-7 lead in the first set; never was behind in the second set, and finished with a 12-2 rush after trailing by a point to win going away in the final set.
Freshman DS Jayleen Fegan led Nichols with 15 kills and a .481 attack percentage against Mitchell, with junior middle Megan Gardner adding ten kills as the Bison attacked at .244. Senior libero Zoe Chevrette had 14 digs and Fegan ten against Mitchell. Freshman setter Rachael Veilleux put up 30 assists and matched Fegan with five service aces.
In the loss to Nichols, freshman Cameron Childs totaled 16 assists, and sophomore libero Shyla Phillips Krick had 15 digs. The Mariners handed Nichols 17 points on reception errors.
Eastern visits Roger Williams University Tuesday at 7 p.m.