by Tyler Roaix
The Central Connecticut volleyball team opened up conference play this past weekend with a pair of matches. The matches against Long Island University (LIU) Broklyn and St. Francis Brooklyn were also the Blue Devils first two home games of the season.
The Blue Devils opened the weekend with a tough, five-set loss to defending NEC-champion LIU Brooklyn.
The match was tightly contested from start to finish. Three of the five sets were decided by three points or less. It was a heart-breaking loss for the Blue Devils, as they had the fifth set tied at 12-12. But, LIU won three of the last four points to pick up the win.
Four Blue Devils posted double-digit kills, led by junior Raquel Quirarte, who had 12. Seniors Lindsey Massicotte and Maddie Smith led the defensive effort. Massicotte had 19 digs while Smith blocked six Blackbird shots.
Head coach Linda Sagnelli, felt as though her team played well, the team just came up a bit short in the end.
“Well that was a really exciting match,” Sagnelli said. “That’s a program over there that we have a lot of respect for. Both teams played well and really beat each other up. We just got a couple bad bounces. Maybe if a couple balls don’t tip off the net it’s a different story. But that was really great volleyball in my opinion.”
Central then looked to bounce back, and they did just that with a 3-1 victory over St. Francis Brooklyn. The first three sets were close; Central won the first two sets, 25-23 in both, and then dropped the third set 28-26 after a hard push from the Terriers. But the Blue Devils took control in the fourth set, winning 25-16 to clinch the match.
It didn’t matter who was on the court for Central; seemingly everyone who played made an impact. Quirarte had a team-high 16 kills, along with a .351 percentage. Freshman Samantha McCreath added 12 kills and sophomore Madelyn Kaprelyan added 11.
But the most surprising performance of the night came from Eline van Heijningen. The freshman from the Netherlands typically does not get many chances at kills, but she took advantage of her 11 total attempts in this match. van Heijningen posted seven kills, a new high for her. Her .545 kill percentage also led the team.
“She had a lot of smart kills tonight,” Sagnelli said of van Heijningen. “She did a really great job of manipulating the ball and place it where they weren’t. “
Despite the misstep against LIU, Sagnelli is confident in a great second half of the season. “This conference is so tough. There are a lot of good teams. You saw it today; St. Francis has improved so much. But we have Bryant next week, who is also tough. Luckily, we only have one match so we can focus our preparation on Bryant.”
Central will travel to Rhode Island on Friday to face Bryant, who has won their last four matches and has posted a perfect 8-0 record at home so far in 2017.