By David F.P. [Modest Image Gallery]
FAIRFIELD, CT- Bright and early on Saturday morning (early enough I couldn’t get there quite on time), the Sacred Heart Pioneers, coached by Rob Machan, hosted fellow Connecticut, and red and white emblazoned team, the Hartford Hawks coached by Don Ferguson. Like Brown the night before, Sacred Heart took the match in 3 straight sets, but it was a close one. When I arrived late in set 1, SHU was just in the midst of edging away from Hartford to take set 1, with Kimmee Roleder’s block ending the set to give them a 25-22 win.
In Set 2 Hartford took an early lead of 3-5 due in part to Kami Nethersole’s kill off the blockers, Michelle Cordell’s service Ace, another Nethersole kill, and Jackie Tamburri’s Ace. Sacred Heart however stayed in close with Johanna Ovsenek’s kill, a solid defensive save by Megan Pulone and other scoring. The Pioneers then broke out into a scoring run which tied the score at 5 and kept going with Dianis Mercado’s two blocks sandwiched around Elise Sage’s whap attack. After a Hartford point, Mercado picked up a kill, then a service ace just in bounds, and another point would follow putting the score at 11-6 and leading to a time out by the Hawks.
After the time out, Roleder opened up the scoring with a kill, though Hartford’s Lindsay Anderson responded with a tap over the net for a point to blunt the scoring run a bit though, Ovsenek picked up a kill as SHU extended the lead to 14-7.
Cordell responded with a kill as did Taylor McCreery who picked up an ace to cut the lead to 14-9. Maile Hetherington’s kill off the blockers opened things up for SHU again and they were soon leading 16-9. The two teams traded pointed to 18-11, though the Pioneers took two more points to get to 20-11. Anderson came up with a kill and Tamburri’s ace cut the lead again, but Christina Bauch’s cross court kill joined with two Hartford attack errors brought the home team lead to 10. After another exchange of points, Sage would end the set with a kill with the score 25-15.
Down two sets, Hartford pulled out to a 3 point lead in set 3 in part due to a Dionna Kirton service ace. Roleder had an ace of her own and the score was soon 2-3. Tamburri’s kill continued the exchange of points though Hartford built up a small lead of 3-6, before Sacred Heart quickly caught up including a Mercado blast to tie things up at 8-8.
Anderson regained the lead for U of H with a kill from the net, though Hetherington’s kill tied it back up and SHU gained a point to take the lead, only to have Sareeta Nethersole’s block for Hartford tie it at 10. The two teams continued to basically go back and forth. Kami Nethersole had a kill, Mercado had a kill, Cordell and Anderson picked up a block, and Sareeta Nethersole added a kill for a brief lead only to have SHU take the lead back thanks to a Roleder block. SHU started to pull away gradually, though both Nethersole’s added 3 points to keep within 1. The score rose to 23-23. Sage smashed the ball into the Hartford zone for 24-23, but Hartford tied it back up. Sacred Heart would add a score and Sage ended set and match 26-24.
For Sacred Heart they would have two matches to rest before taking on Rutgers in the Big East, another coincidentally red and white clad team. Hartford would have Brown to take on in an afternoon match. SHU had not lost a set in their tourney thus far, and Hartford had yet to win one.
Editor’s Note: This is based on notes taken at the match, normally verified against the official play by play if possible. Reports focus on offense since it is easier to track but note defensive play whenever possible. Also, a lot happens in a volleyball game, far more than can fit into a report, so this just notes some of it.