By David F. P.
STORRS, CT- The West Virginia Mountaineers made the trip up to Connecticut to take on the Huskies on their home turf friday night, but before the game commenced, all present took a moment of silence in honor slain UConn football player Jasper Howard.
This match marks the beginning of the Huskies last home stand of the year for Coach Holly Strauss- O’Brien’s squad which features two Big East opponents in Coach Veronica Hammersmith’s West Virginia and Pitt later in the weekend.
In addition to the UConn team’s usual habit of dancing along to the various arena songs pumped through Gampel’s sound system, the festive atmosphere was added to by the Halloween celebrations already in high gear with a small group of costumed characters making appearances in the front rows including Captain Jack Sparrow, Elvis, Mister T (a caucasian Mister T at that), and others.
As usual with my recaps, it is easiest to keep track of the offensive plays, though defense is of course as important as offense so I try to note defensive plays when I can amidst the fast action.
For the match itself, things started out fairly evenly. Abby Norman’s kill opened up the scoring but following a good defensive save by Jessica Isaac, Chauntay Mickens and Rebecca Murray came up with a block tie things up. WVU’s libero Bonnie West also had a good play on that one. Kristina Gallahan’s kill from the net regained the lead for the visitors, but Samantha Arriaran utilized her fake set which she turned into a tap over the net to tie it up. Arriaran and Allison Nickel then picked up a block knocking the ball sideways to another part of the court. Good defensive plays by Kelsey Maving and West came on the next back and forth but a Mountaineer sent a spike out of bounds. Gallahan struck again with one of her kills, but her team spiked out of bounds on the following play. West Virginia would pick up another point though, but Murray came up with a rocket over the net to keep the Connecticut lead at 2. WVU3 and Norman shared a block to bring their team within 1, but an attack out of bounds kept Connecticut ahead 7-5.
West Virginia would then pick up 15 unanswered points. This came through; a Connecticut serve into the net, a service ace by Kylie Armbruster just in bounds, three Connecticut attacks out of bounds, WVU winning a joust at the net, Norman sending a spike off the defenders and out of play, and then delivering a huge block afterward. Another Connecticut attack went out of play, Gallahan found a gap to tap the ball into, combined with Norman on a block, and picked up another kill off the defenders. On a play featuring a good defensive save by Gallahan the home team attacked out of play. Norman then pounced on an overpass when a Connecticut set sailed over the net, and she smacked it down. The Huskies were called for a four contacts error as well and the score was 7-20.
A serve out of bounds by WVU finally broke the streak, and Connecticut started a comeback featuring a Mickens put down of an overpass, a Mattison Quayle smash following a good dig from Jessica Isaac, and a Mickens kill off the d to the floor. West played a roll in making a play on the next rally, and a teammate tapped the ball over to keep the WVU lead at 10. On the next back and forth an errant UConn set sailed over the net but found a gap in the defense. Gallahan sent a cross court kill in to keep the lead still at 10. Mickens put down an errant dig attempt by a Mountaineer, but Connecticut had an attack error of their own to bring play to 13-23. Another good save by West eventually led to Michelle Kopecky whacking a ball off the defense and in. Nickel and Arriaran then shared a block to keep things going and Murray’s serve bounced off a visitor for the ace. On the next rally Jessica Isaac had a good dig and Andrea Miller a good save but a block out of bounds by U of C ended the set 15-25. West Virginia 1, Connecticut 0
In case Connecticut fans were worried about the lopsidedness, the Huskies rebounded in the next 3 sets and all were very close. Set 2 opened with Connecticut pulling out to a 9-5 lead. The Huskies had point s from Murray’s tap to the gap, a kill off the blockers, another kill following a good dig by Maving, a service ace by Quayle, a Nickel tap to the gap, Jordan Kirk’s kill, a positive smash from Quayle, and a WVU hit into the net. The Mountaineers picked up points due to a Connecticut block out of bounds following good defense from Armbruster and despite good a good save from Arriaran, another block soon followed, Miller had a cross court smash, West had another great save on a play that didn’t go her team’s way, Connecticut served into the net, and Norman and Miller shared a block. West Virginia called a time out and when play resumed Jessica Isaac sent a serve over for an ace. WVU would pick up a point after that, but Kirk’s kill hit a blocker and went out, but WVU came back with a point. Maving picked up a cool defensive save, and Mickens’s block kept the Huskies up 12-7.
On the ensuing rally, Mickens ended up running out of bounds and nearly into the other side’s court to make a defensive save, aided by Quayle, and Mickens then made the Mountaineers pay with a kill. On the next serve, the back and forth was perhaps the longest of the night, with plenty of good saves including Armbruster, Jessica Isaac, and others, until it ended with a kill from West Virginia. Connecticut’s bench managed to pick up a yellow card following that. Lauren Evans won a battle for the ball at the net to score another point the score was 13-9 and the home team called a time out.
Gallahan then picked up a kill. Kari Post’s serve was unreturnable though I’m not sure it counted as an ace. Both Post and Maving had good saves, before Murray struck again. A Mountaineer responded with a kill from the net, and and a two hit error on the Huskies followed that, though Connecticut got back up by 2 soon after. A serve out of bounds by the Huskies and a Evans service ace that hit just in the corner tied the score at 15. A WVU serve out of bounds and an Ace by Arriaran would put the Huskies up by 2. Another UConn point followed when West Virginia spiked out of bounds as well. Though Connecticut served out of bounds to keep their lead at 2. Murray came up with a kill, but a serve out of bounds after that cut the lead, and Post put down an overpass to pull within 1. A two hit penalty on the Mountaineers extended the lead, and following a good save by Gallahan, a Connecticut attack out of play cut it again. Quayle unleashed a titanic spike to bring the score to 21-19 and lead to a West Virginia time out. Quayle stepped into serve after her spike and picked up a service ace when a defensive dig failed. Gallahan launched a spike off the block to cut the lead, but Murray fired back. Evans picked up a kill from the net, and Miller came up with a block. On the ensuing play, a great save by West was followed by a Armbruster spike just in bounds down the line and tied things at 23-23. Connecticut called a time out.
Murray spiked a kill in to regain the lead. West Virginia responded with a spike of their own. Kirk would launch a cross court spike to a gap in the defense to regain the lead and a Nickel kill ended the set 26-24 and tying the match at 1.
Set 3 began with five straight points for the Huskies as West Virginia spiked into the net, spiked out of bounds, contacted the antenna, and another point followed that with a good save by Jessica Isaac and despite a good dig by Armbruster, Arriaran then served up a service ace. The Mountaineers called a time out and came out with three quick points thanks to Norman and despite a good save earlier form Jessica Isaac, Connecticut then hit a ball out of bounds, and Evans and Post shared a block.
U of C went on a run thanks to a Quayle kill that popped off the block, a Jessica Isaac serve that WVU was unable to return, and a Kirk tip over the blockers, though the run ended when the Huskies hit an antenna following good defensive plays by West for one. A Connecticut spike out of bounds cut the lead to 4, but the home team rallied when a kill flew off the defense and into the seats, followed by a block by the Huskies. Evans responded to keep the deficit at 4, but a spike out of bounds, extended the lead to 11-6 for the Huskies. The two teams traded points to make it 12-7, but the Mountaineers struck next. Armbruster’s spike hit a defender for a point, and Norman’s kill flew off the blockers, and Tamara De Angelis’s dig flew back over the net, but landed safely in for a point, despite another good save by Jessica Isaac, Armbruster sent a hard blast off the home team and into the seats. Each team traded service errors, but Gallahan’s kill from the net off a Husky tied the score at 13.
This touched off a back and forth which did not end until the set was decided, each team basically traded blows all the way to a 25-25 tie requiring extra rallies to settle things.
Connecticut scored their next 12 points most off a WVU lift penalty, Quayle’s kill through the block, Quayle’s smashed one from the net, a West Virginia serve out of bounds, Mickens’s kill, a Mountaineer attack hitting the antenna, Murray’s kill which rocketed off the fingertips of the defense, Lauren Lamberti came up with a kill from the net, and soon after added a massive blast kill, Mickens’s hurricane shot which ricocheted off the visitors and over the scorer’s table, and Quayle’s kill following a good dig by Arriaran earlier.
West Virginia’s 12 came from Post’s backhanded one handed tap over the net to the floor, Nicole Jones’s kill, a UConn net violation that ended a long long rally which included a save from Kirk nonetheless, Gallahan spiked off the defense’s block attempt, and also tapped over the blockers later, U of C served out of bounds, Armbruster’s kill, a home team serve out of bounds behind the back line, Post’s fake set which instead turned into a tap over the net, Evans’s spike from the net, Gallahan putting down an errant Connecticut overpass, and 7’s kill.
With the score at 25-25 Gallahan stepped in and served up an ace and her teammate added a kill to ice the set 25-27 in favor of the Mountaineers.
Set 4 opened with each team battling to a 14-14 tie.
For the Huskies, their scoring resulted from Quayle’s kill that hit a blocker and went out of bounds, Murray’s smash, and after that a tap in, Mickens’s kill from the net off a blocker, a serve out of bounds by WVU, Devon Farrell’s kill following a good dig earlier by Jessica Isaac, Farrell’s tap over off a set despite a good save earlier by West, another Farrell spike off the blockers, Murray crushing an attack through the blockers, a miscue by West Virginia on a return, WVU hitting into the net, and also spiking out of bounds, three times in a row.
West Virginia’s scoring came out of West’s ace to open up the match, a Connecticut serve out of play, and later a serve into the net, Evans’s tap over the front line defenders, Armbruster and Norman’s tandem block, and Norman positively stuffing a UConn attack, Evans’s service ace, West’s whap in, another Norman block, Norman’s fake set which turned into an attack to a gap, Gallahan putting down a Connecticut overpass, a Connecticut attack hitting the antenna (though this caused great controversy), Evans received a set and hammered it over, Gallahan’s block,
Murray’s tap in took the lead for UConn, but the visitors scored right back, with Farrell adding a kill just in bounds, but the Huskies served out of bounds. The Mountaineers took advantage with a Miller and Norman tandem block, a Armbruster kill, and a Connecticut spike out of bounds and spike into the net put the lead at 4 for the gold and blue. The UConn bench managed a second yellow card of the night in the process. Farrell cut the lead with her blast, and a spike out of play by the visitors cut it to two, though Armbruster responded, but a spike out of bounds, and a Mickens kill brought the score to 21-22, but Post’s tap kept the lead up, though Mickens responded again, but Gallahan came right back, and a Evans ended set and match 22-25.
Connecticut next faces Pitt in Gampel on Sunday on Senior day.