by David F. P. [Modest Image Gallery]
FAIRFIELD, CT- Joined in progress would be the word to describe my visit to Sacred Heart as I arrived for their NEC battle with Long Island in the middle of Set 2. Kyle Robinson’s LIU Blackbirds had pulled out to a 1-0 set lead, but Rob Machan’s squad would even things up at 2 at the conclusion of the second frame.
[Editor’s Note, because I was not there the entire match, will be summarizing the play by play a little more than usual.]
Sacred Heart built a lead and held onto it in set 2 winning 25-19,
In set 3, things opened up with a long rally finally ended by a kill from Jessica Rice of LIU. After another Blackbird point followed, Johanna Ovsenek got SHU on the board with a kill, a few points and some LIU attack errors later it was 5-3 Pioneers before, Kimmee Roleder let a kill fly from back court with success. LIU climbed back into it with a few points, though SHU responded including a kill from Elise Sage. Sapphire Reid responded by crushing an attack over and Jessica Rice added to that, but SHU maintained a slight lead added to by another Roleder kill. The two teams traded points, with Ovsenek adding another kill but LIU tying it up on a Vera Djuric service ace. Sage regained the lead for SHU but LIU tied it back up.
The furious exchange of points continued as LIU’s Annika Foit bounced a ball off the net and to the floor on an attack. Roleder smacked a ball to the gap and a couple points later Alissa Young went airborne on an attack. Long Island kept pace, though Roleder struck yet again. Jessica Rice hammered an attack and Hanna Gibeau and Ashley Rice shared a block to take a lead, but a kill from Dianis Mercado and a pair of LIU attacks out of bounds put the home team back up 21-20.
Ashley Rice and Gibeau had another tandem block and one point later they and Annika Foit blocked an attack again, though Sage’s kill evened the score at 22-22. A cross court spike from Gibeau regained the lead but Sage tied it back up. Foit launched a rocket into the Pioneer zone but two straight errors from the visitors gave the lead back to the Pioneers. Jessica Rice smacked an attack off the blockers, but SHU regained the lead 26-25, but Reid tied it back up. Roleder however struck again and she then served up a service ace to take the set.
Long Island though would gain the upper hand in set 4 for a 25-17 win. Offense for Long Island included a 7-0 run to start the set including 3 straight blocks involving Ashley Rice, two in which she teamed with Djuric and 1 with Gibeau, an error on SHU, a kill, and then one from Gibeau, before she and Ashley Rice shared another block. Ashley Rice had a put down at the net and shared a block with Foit, later Reid had a kill landing just in bounds, and they also benefited from numerous attack errors from their opponents. Reid had a huge kill, and Djuric and Jessica Rice came up with a block. Djuric won a joust at the net knocking the ball over, and Gibeau blasted the ball over in a massive kill, then she tipped a ball off a blocker, Ashley Rice lined up and dropped the hammer, and Gibeau had a pair of kills, before the final set ending kill of hers.
SHU picked up points from an early Roleder kill, and then another, Mercado added one, as did Sage, Young, and Ovsenek had two in a row, one that flew off a Blackbird and way out of bounds into a mesh wall, Roleder added a kill mid-set, she also had a great save diving onto her bench to keep the ball in play, later Mercado had a kill, Mercado had a late kill and Alisa Mesa served up an ace.
On to the decisive set 5 the two teams went. LIU went up 4 to 1 including Ashley Rice putting down an overpass and teaming with Gibeau on a pair of blocks. Ovsenek sent a rocket into the gap and Roleder used a light touch to cut the lead, but Gibeau’s big kill extended it. Foit came up big with a spike and Jessica Rice won a battle at the net, Mercado picked up a kill in response and when LIU had a net violation the score was tied at 7.
Sacred Heart would take the lead thanks to a Young spike, and then Mesa stepped back to serve up another ace. Young would strike again to put the lead at 10-7.
Reid and Jessica Rice’s tandem block along with a huge kill from Gibeau that hit a defender and then a basketball hope cut the lead to 10-9. SHU added another point but a put down from Jessica Rice cut the lead again. The two teams traded points again until Ovsenek landed a kill just in bounds. Gibeau returned fire, but Ovsenek did too to make the score 14-12. Mercado would end it to take set and match for the Pioneers.
Gibeau lead the Blackbirds in kills with 21, Foit had 7, Jessica Rice 6, Ashley Rice 5 and Reid 5. Ashley Rice had .364 hit percentage on the day. Vera Djuric had 36 assists on the day as well. 4 players had a service ace. Foit led the team with 18 digs, Libero Chelsey Stanton had 12, while Reid had 14. 3 players had solo blocks and Rice participated in 18 tandem blocks as well as 1 solo, Gibeau was part of 13, and Djuric 5.
For Sacred Heart Roleder had 19 kills, Mercado 16, Young and Sage 12, and Ovsenek 11. Sage had a hit percentage of .367. Mesa had 52 assists on the day, and Roleder had 20 digs, Ashlyn Trimble had 15, as did libero Jessica Colberg, Mercado had 13. Mesa had 2 service aces and teammates had 3 more. The team only had 4 block stats in total.
Long Island is now 18-12, 12-2 in the NEC and Sacred Heart is 22-7, and 12-2 in the NEC as well with the win.
Editor’s Note: This is based on notes taken at the match, verified against the official play by play if possible. (Official box score was posted here by sports information.) Reports focus on offense since it is easier to track but note defensive play whenever possible. It is difficult to note things like digs and assists although they are no doubt vital to the game. Also, a lot happens in a volleyball game, far more than can fit into a report, so this just notes some of it.