By Derek Turner
Even in a loss to the Northeast Conference leading LIU Blackbirds Saturday afternoon, Central Connecticut Volleyball made a statement.
The teams traded set wins through the first four before Long Island completed the victory and stayed undefeated in the NEC with a 15-8 fifth set win.
“I think it was an exciting match,” said Head Coach Linda Sagnelli returning to the gym after talking to her team following the loss. “A lot of long volleys, there was good serving, there was some incredible defensive plays and then some incredible plays on both sides where stuff happened very quickly and the ball just stayed up.”
LIU jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the first set off a couple CCSU errors, but the Blue Devils quickly turned things around and the two teams traded points throughout the set. Central took control of the set near the end when they scored seven of the final eight points en route to a 25-18 first set win.
Long Island came back strong in the second set never trailing and coming out with a 25-16 win to tie the match at one set apiece.
After it seemed like Central conceded the second set towards the end, they came back and dominated the third with defense holding the Blackbirds to their worst set hitting percentage on the day at .108. The Blue Devils took the third set by a score of 25-18 and needed only one more set to defeat the top team in conference, but they couldn’t put the match away.
Just as in the first set, the fourth was extremely competitive and neither team could take a large lead early on. After 16 points the score was tied 8-8. LIU then scored four unanswered points and didn’t look back even after Central closed the gap to one at 12-11. Long Island scored 13 of the final 17 points and tied the match at two games each with a 25-15 win.
“It seemed like in the sets we won, everything worked better for us and in the sets they won they seemed to be more in sync,” said Sagnelli.
Tied at two sets each, LIU and Central were headed to a fifth set. The only other time LIU had played five sets in a conference match was September 22 against Sacred Heart; their first Northeast Conference match of the season. This would be the Blue Devils first five-setter of the conference schedule as both teams played very equal on Saturday.
“Overall the numbers match up very closely adding them all up and a few points separated the two teams today,” said Sagnelli.
As the Blue Devils came out of their huddle before the fifth set, libero Allyson Porter looked over to the “student section,” and motioned them to get loud. Everyone in the stands knew this was the biggest set of the season thus far and the Blue Devils needed everyone behind them, especially the three male students with their shirts off and chests painted blue and white.
Central held a slim 3-2 set lead, but a series of errors cost them the set and the match. As the teams switched sides, Long Island held an 8-4 lead and extended the lead to 11-4 before CCSU made a small run, but LIU quickly regained composure and finished off the Blue Devils scoring four of the final five sports and defeating Central three sets to two.
“We talk about competitive attitude and mental toughness all the time and I think Long Island was better at that today,” said Sagnelli. “We have a degree of mental toughness; we need to able to increase that and not be afraid to go out there and go for the win.”
Outside hitter Blaike King led CCSU with 17 kills on the day followed by Emily Cochran’s 15 with a majority of the attempts coming from passes off the hands of setter Makenna Lommori who finished the match with 38 assists. Porter contributed on the defensive end with 20 digs.
LIU-Brooklyn remained undefeated in conference play with this victory over CCSU and a 3-0 victory Sunday versus Bryant University. Through Nov. 4, LIU, Robert Morris University and CCSU had clinched berths in the NEC tournament which is played at the #1 seed’s home court on Nov. 17 and 18.