By David F. Pendrys (Note: I did not have a roster with Zhejiang with numbers so I had no way to identify players. Otherwise I would have written about their individual efforts.) [Modest Image Gallery]
BRIDGEPORT, CT- The Bridgeport Purple Knights continued their exhibition series versus Zhejiang University from China Thursday night and despite a valiant effort lost their second straight match to the visitors from overseas. Unlike the 3-0 sweep the last time the two teams met, this match would go five sets and feature a close finish in the deciding frame. Zhejiang had present a very vocal cheering section urged on by the team itself with chants. The UB fans responded quickly and forcefully as well making for an electric atmosphere throughout the match.
Zhejiang pulled out to a lead in the first set, but no more than a few points, and the Knights pursued, trying to make up the gap. For awhile the visitors held them off, but at the 21st point Biljana Savic spiked the ball over to tie things up. Zhejiang was able to reclaim the advantage quickly though following a couple Bridgeport miscues, and a service ace of their own, they would be up 24-22. UB called a time out and staved off a set loss following a long rally, but one point later Zhejiang knocked the ball through the blocking line and the set went to them 25-22.
Bridgeport however responded and strongly in set 2, the two teams kept it even through 8, but Bridgeport struck with a major scoring run bringing the score to 15-10. This would prove to be insurmountable as Zhejiang posted only 4 more points, as Bridgeport got the ten they needed to win 25-14. The match was punctuated by Savic and Larissa Oliveira’s block for their 24th point, and Savic serving up an ace right after to take the set.
To set 3 the two teams went, and continued their relatively even exchanges to a 15-15 tie. Zhejiang then launched into a 4 point run, momentarily stopped by a UB point, but the Knights were soon in a 16 to 21 hole. A time out didn’t seem to stop the bleeding as Zhejiang scored again, but UB responded with four points, including an Ace from Michele Santos, and a block from Frida Randen and Jade Zhao. A Zhejiang time out failed to blunt the momentum and Zhao and Ying Shen each picked up a kill to tie the set at 22-22. The two teams traded points twice, as Savic punctuated things by crushing the ball through the blockers as if they weren’t even there. The visitors were ready to break the tie however and two quick points ended the set 26-24.
Set 4 found the teams in familiar territory as a 16-16 tie showcased how close the match had been. Another service ace from Santos followed by a Zhao/Randen shared block gave UB momentum but Zhejiang responded and the teams fought to a 21-21 tie. For Zhejiang this was a deciding set, they could win the match, but the Knights had other ideas, and they took the lead on the ensuing volley. Zhao and Sarah Rosa then blocked a Zhejiang attack, and Savic teed up two successive blasts to finish the set up 25-21.
So it would be set 5, a sprint to fifteen points, that would decide the contest. Not surprisingly, the teams were tied early on 6-6. Zhejiang snagged two quick points before the teams switched sides, but Bridgeport kept up with them. When Fernanda Silva’s ace sailed off a defender’s dig attempt the score was became 10-10. Savic received a set and a thunderous spike followed, Zhejiang picked up two more points, but Savic responded. The visitors scored two points in succession, but UB did as well for a 14-14 score. The stalemate would not last though as Zhejiang was able to pop a ball off a blocker to take the lead, and then spike it over hard to follow that, earning the set 16-14 and the match 3-2.
The Purple Knights get one more chance for a win against Zhejiang on September 24th to close out the exhibition series.