Category Archives: Volleyball

Volleyball Wins Two At Hartford Invitational

by Tyler Roaix

 The Central Connecticut State University volleyball team participated in its third and final tournament this weekend when they played in the Hartford Invitational. After a loss Friday night, Central won both of their matches on Saturday to finish with a 2-1 record for the event.

Central opened up the weekend with a tough 3-1 loss Friday night to Niagara University. The Blue Devils dug themselves into a hole throughout the match with 30 errors in total, 10 more than Niagara. Head coach Linda Sagnelli shared after the match how none of their hitters performed well.

“We were our own worst enemy today,” Sagnelli said. “We struggled from start to finish, but we have to let it go and get ready for tomorrow.”

The CCSU Women’s Volleyball Team

Niagara would add two more wins over the weekend to finish a perfect 3-0 and were awarded as winners of the Hartford Invitational.

Sagnelli’s main message to her team was to fight back on Saturday, and they did just that. Despite 26 errors, Central battled their way to a 3-1 victory. Junior Raquel Quirarte bounced back in a big way with a team-leading 14 kills. Sophomore Madelyn Kaprelyan added 13 kills as well to help fuel the offense.

But the Blue Devils’ strongest match of the weekend came Saturday evening against the host of the event, University of Hartford. Central swept the Hawks in straight sets to pick up their fifth win in their last six matches.

Central was dominant at every facet of the game. They outnumbered Hartford 44-30 in kills, and also had eight fewer errors. They controlled the battle around the net with 11 blocks in the match.

Senior Maddie Smith was a star all weekend for CCSU. With an average kill percentage of .508, Smith led the Central offense throughout the invitational. Freshman Samantha McCreath won both NEC Player and Rookie of the Week awards last week, despite having struggled during the first two matches against Niagara and New Jersey Institute of Technology. Sagnelli took her out early against NJIT after committing 18 errors, but McCreath had a strong match in the win over Hartford, racking up nine kills and a .350 kill percentage.

Smith, along with fellow senior Lindsey Massicotte were both given spots on the All-Tournament team for their efforts this weekend.

During the preseason, Sagnelli highlighted the depth of her team. That was on full display this weekend. Central played 11 of its 15 available players, including five freshmen. The spotlight may be on McCreath with her strong start to the season, but every player on the roster has contributed in one form or another.

With the weekend performance, Central improves their record to 6-3 overall, best in the Northeastern Conference. The Blue Devils are back in action Wednesday, Sept. 13 on the road against Iona. They then wrap up non-conference play Tuesday, Sept. 19 when they travel to Brown University.

Sitting Down With Coach Sagnelli

by Tyler Roaix

After a season of ups and downs back in 2016, the Central Connecticut State University’s Women’s Volleyball team suffered a disappointing loss in the semifinals of the Northeastern Conference tournament.

The biggest challenge every program faces while going into a new season, is the mix of new and returning students. CCSU is no different; of the 16-player roster, seven of them are freshman.

But head women volleyball coach Linda Sagnelli shared how her squad put those concerns to bed early on.

“We do have a very large incoming class, but so far it has been very smooth,” Sagnelli said. “Our new girls have gelled with the veterans so well. And those retuning players have set the bar in practice, and the freshmen have eased in so well.”

The NEC also implemented scrimmage matches this year to help teams in the conference transition into the new season. Central used this new opportunity to play a scrimmage match again Quinnipiac on Aug. 22.

Due to the new season, Central has lost five seniors . Much of their success in 2016 came from now-graduated players, like Brooke Schwab and Cassidy Stankowski.

Even still, when asked if there were any players she was looking at who could take charge, her answer was simple; everyone.

“We have so much depth. Raquel [Quirarte] is a sparkplug, and she’s only getting stronger,” Sagnelli said about her players. “Lindsey [Massicotte] is a rock. Maddie [Smith] is so focused. Morgan [Woycik] is over 10 feet on her vertical… It really can come from anywhere this year.”

Sagnelli enters her 18th season at Central, and so far she has had a lot of success on the court. But what may be her greatest achievement, may be off the court.

In July, the American Volleyball Coaches Association recognized CCSU’s volleyball team for academic excellence. It is the 11th consecutive year Central has been awarded the honor.

“We not only want to see them become great players, but also great people,” Sagnelli shared of the feat. “We don’t try to pressure them into being something they aren’t. All we ask of our players is to do their best, regardless of whether it’s on the court or in the classroom. As long as they try their best, that all we can ask for.”

The biggest hurdle the team must get over if they are to return to the playoffs, is their success outside of Kaiser Gym.

At home last season, Central was nearly unbeatable, going 8-2 in 10 contests. But in 17 matches either on the road or at neutral sites, they won just six. They were lucky to skate into the playoffs with a fourth seed in 2016.

But look for Sagnelli and her coaching staff to push the team early in the year, so that they aren’t fighting for a spot the last weekend of the regular season.

Overall, Sagnelli is looking forward to this season with a team that could easily go all the way. “I have to say, it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch these girls play. I’m so excited to get started.”

The Blue Devils have jumped out to a strong 4-2 record to start the season. Sophomore Madelyn Kaprelyan has been a force for Central, posting a team-leading 57 kills and a .287 hit percentage so far.

The Blue Devils are back at it this weekend when they participate in the Hartford Invitational. Their first home match is not until Sept. 22, when they begin conference play against LIU Brooklyn.

Volleyball Escapes Bite from Bulldogs to Win NEC Opener

by Sean Begin

The Central Connecticut volleyball victory over the Bryant Bulldogs on Saturday wasn’t their most polished performance of the season. But, against a Northeast Conference opponent who came out firing, it’s a win the team will take.

“I gotta tell you, Bryant played their hearts out. They came with a lot more energy than we played today,” said head coach Linda Sagnelli after the match. “It’s a really important lesson learned that every single opponent is the same, it doesn’t matter who’s on the other side of the net.”

“It feels good [to get the win] because this whole preseason we’ve had pretty tough matches and we were just trying to figure things out with new people,” said junior Makenna Lommori. “It’s good to start with a win.”

While the Blue Devils (5-8, 1-1 NEC) may have opened Saturday’s match by taking the first set 25-18, they struggled to find a rhythm on offense early, something Bryant (3-16, 0-1 NEC) took advantage of.

The Bulldogs pushed hard in the second set, edging Central 25-23 to even things up. They kept that momentum going through the third set as well, playing point for point with the Blue Devils.

With the score knotted at 20, senior Rachel Dunlap gave away a point on a miss-timed swing. It didn’t take her long to get it right back. The very next point Dunlap slammed home the kill to tie the game once more and push Central through to a 25-22 third set win.

“We kind of we’re swimming in mud a little bit the first three sets of that match,” said Sagnelli. “We did things in that five point stretch after it was tied at 20 better than we had in the whole entire match. And I’m just glad that carried over into the final set.”

Everything finally clicked for Central in the fourth and final set, both offensively and defensively. After once again exchanging points with Bryant early, Central took a slim 6-5 lead. From there, they played like the team who has made the last two NEC championships.

The Blue Devils rattled off nine straight points from both well-executed blocks and efficient attacking to put the set out of reach, to secure the match.

“In that final set, our rhythm switched. What Bryant had,[we had]. All of a sudden we just settled into our game,” said Sagnelli.

Central faced a couple of issues that match to contribute to the slow start. Starting libero Rachel Fish was battling an illness coming into the game, but tried to play through it in the first set.

“Rachel wasn’t feeling well, at all,” said Sagnelli. “We gave her a chance to go ahead and try to play through it but she just wasn’t feeling well at all.’

Senior Brittany Schumacher took over at the libero for the rest of the game and filled in admirably. Sagnelli credits her for the play that turned the team around.

“She had a really phenomenal dig off one of their hardest hits of the day,” said Sagnelli. “She sat down right under it and from that point on, I told the team, that’s the turning point. It was the turning point of rhythm for us.”

And where Schumacher filled in well for Fish, junior Nicole Dean filled in well for freshman Nicole Celarek.

Celarek has quickly found a prominent role in her first season, ranking third on the team — with 94 kills. Though, on Saturday, she couldn’t seem to get anything going. Enter Dean: coming off an injury and playing in just her second match of the season.

“We have four people that can play [the opposite] position. The two strongest of those players would be the two Nicoles,” said Sagnelli. “And one got the start and just didn’t have a great day and the other just went right in and picked it up.”

With the team nearly at full health once again (Dean and sophomore Cassidy Stankowski are both back from injury), this depth is what helped them win on Saturday and is what will help them for the rest of the season.

“With Cassidy healthy, she really solidifies the whole offense,” said Sagnelli. “Heather [Trueman] out there taking a lot of swings is great. But having everybody healthy is nice.”

As well, having everyone cleared to play is helpful to Lommori, the team’s setter. It gives her multiple options to go to at any time during a game.

“It’s really nice because we’re so deep, even people coming in and out of the game [can contribute],” said Lommori. “Even if someone is having an off day or just needs a little break, we have other people that have the same level of trust on the court.”

Central was led on the attack by Stankowski and Trueman, who each had 14 kills. Both players led the team in digs with 15 each. Three other Blue Devils posted double digit digs: Lommori (12), Fish (11) and Schumacher (10). Dunlap was effective on both ends with 11 kills and 6 blocks.

Central takes the court again this weekend with games on Saturday and Sunday against Robert Morris and St. Francis (Pa.), respectively. Both games start at 1 p.m.

Central Volleyball Loses Two

by Sean Begin
The Central Connecticut volleyball team lost more than just two games over the weekend.
Junior Heather Trueman and sophomore Cassidy Stankowski both fell awkwardly during Saturday’s five-set loss to Robert Morris University. Neither has been officially diagnosed but both went down with left knee injuries that may sideline them for weeks if not the remainder of the season.
“It’s definitely a blow to the team,” said head coach Linda Sagnelli. “You never want to see anyone go down. In all my years, I’ve never had two players go down in a match. It’s rare to even have one player go down with a bad injury, it doesn’t happen that often.”
With Central up 8-7 in the first set against RMU, Trueman went up for an attack, twisting her knee on her landing. She stood under her own power but had to be helped from the court. And then in the fourth set, with Central coming back and the score tied 5-5, Stankowski went down in nearly the same manner.
“They’re going to go through all the medical stuff that they need to go through,” said Sagnelli. “They have to take the appropriate steps and get evaluated by [the team doctor] and get the diagnostic testing done.”
Central lost that first set against Robert Morris 27-25. With RMU (5-14, 4-0 NEC) sitting on game point, 24-20, Central rattled off four straight scores to tie it before the Colonials managed to finish the set off. RMU took the second set 25-16, putting the Blue Devils (5-10, 1-2 NEC) down 2-0.
“When [Heather went down and] we wound up losing a heartbreaker in that set by two points, that next set was tough to get through,” said Sagnelli. “We had to just say ‘Hey, look, we have to refocus.’ I brought Heather into the timeout and I said ‘Heather, what do you want,’ and she said ‘I want this team to win.’ I think that really helped.”
Central managed to climb back into it with wins of 25-17 and 25-23 in the third and fourth sets, forcing a decisive fifth. In that set, RMU quickly went up 7-2, holding off the Blue Devils for a 15-9 victory.
“We showed a lot of great fight and were able to take Robert Morris to five [sets] just on guts and hard work,” said Sagnelli.
With a game against Saint Francis (Pa.) the very next day, Central didn’t have much time to readjust their game plan with Trueman and Stankowski out. The Red Flash (7-11, 3-1 NEC) took that Sunday match 3-1, with Central winning only the second set.
“We had too many unforced errors, we gave way too many points away,” said Sagnelli of Sunday’s loss. “In one of the sets I think it was about 15 points we gave away on errors to them, where they didn’t have to do anything. So that loss a real frustrating kind of loss.”
Both Trueman and Stankowski have multiple roles on the team. Both serve as two of three primary passers in the back court, along with being top attackers at the net. Trueman leads the team with 178 kills this season.
Stankowski, who had just started seeing full game time after healing a previous knee injury, was one of the team’s leading scorers last season and had already fallen into that role in the few games she played after returning.
“We lost our two primary passers and we lost our two top scorers offensively,” said Sagnelli. “That’s a big void to fill. And we’re going to find a way to fill it. One way is to let Makenna [Lommori] do some hitting.”
Lommori, the team’s primary setter, saw a chance to hit earlier in the season, when Sagnelli installed and tested a new 6-2 offensive system, using junior Ashley Lenington as a secondary setter. Sagnelli had switched back to the familiar 5-1 heading into the Blue Devil Invitational, to take advantage of the team’s strength.
Now with Trueman and Stankowski out, Sagnelli is forced to go back to the 6-2 to free up Lommori to do some hitting.
“Makenna’s got to get into a hitting role a little more and work on controlling the ball a little bit and keeping it in bounds,” said Sagnelli. “She’s so strong, when she does get a hold of that ball she can overpower people. And she’s just got to refine that a little bit so that she puts a little more pressure on their defense.”
The good news for the Blue Devils is they are already familiar with the 6-2 offense they’ll run going forward. With such a quick turnaround between games, they weren’t afforded the time to shake off some of the rust. That’ll come this week in practice.
“We have the week of practice now to work on it,” said Sagnelli. “Even though we did go through some stuff on our pass and serve it’s just not enough time to adjust. So we do have the week to work out some kinks and put our players in the best position that they can be in to succeed.”
The loss of Trueman and Stankowski shakes up how Central will play going forward, but they still have potential weapons on the team. Nicole Dean has greatly improved her attack in her sophomore year and freshman Nicole Celarek has been given a big role since arriving in New Britain.
The 6-2 allows for both Dean and Celarek to find bigger offensive roles. It also means freshman Maddie Smith will see more playing time in the front court as a blocker when Lommori is in the back court coming forward to attack, something she will now have to do.
“We’re down two arms and we need somebody else who can put pressure on the other team and it looks going forward that Makenna can most certainly do that.”

Volleyball Splits Wild Weekend, Breaks NCAA Record

by Sean Begin

It felt like two different Central Connecticut teams stepped onto the volleyball court this past weekend.

The first lacked energy and faced a Fairleigh Dickinson team on Saturday that came into Detrick Gymnasium and played the best volleyball of its season, according to its head coach, sweeping Central in three sets.

The second played with the same focus that usually characterizes it when, along with Sacred Heart, it broke an NCAA single set record by combining for 90 points in a 46-44 fourth set loss on Sunday. Central won that match in five sets, thanks to a school record 35 kills from junior captain Makenna Lommori.

“I’ve never seen that kind of side out volleyball,” said head coach Linda Sagnelli after the team’s win on Sunday. “It was just crazy. Both times were going after it. I don’t think either team started to sit back a little bit. Both team’s just wanted it so badly.”

Central (7-12, 3-4 NEC) took the first set from the Pioneers 25-23. The Pioneers rebounded, coming out strong against Central in the second set, going up 16-3 to start before finishing the Blue Devils off 25-11. Central took the third set 25-19.

Central was up 24-21 in the fourth set, needing just one point to close out the match. But Sacred Heart scored three straight points to tie it up a 24. With a two-point margin necessary to win, the teams began trading score after score. One side would gain the advantage for several points, only to lose it to the other and be forced to play from behind.

Finally, a kill by SHU’s Tori Kemper put the Pioneer’s up 45-44 before a miscommunication from Central allowed the ball to fall in between three players and give SHU the 46-44 set victory.

“We had a miscommunication and it’s unfortunate it ended that set like that but sometimes those points just don’t go your way,” said Sagnelli. “But it wasn’t for lack of trying. Everybody, their heart was just out on the court. Not just on our side but on their side too. That was a battle.”

“The way it ended wasn’t the way we wanted it to end,” added junior captain Makenna Lommori. “So we talked about that a little bit [in the huddle after the set] and more of coming out strong and not giving up. No tipping, more just swinging and attacking every point.”

Central was able to string together a few small runs in the fifth set to hold off Sacred Heart for the well-earned 15-12 victory. The turnaround from the previous day’s sweep at the hands of FDU came thanks to an increased energy level.

“It was definitely better than yesterday,” said Lommori of the team coming into Sunday. “We were focusing on us more so than Sacred Heart, just our energy and our attitudes with each other and working with each other.”

Lommori’s 35 kills weren’t the only school record to fall on Sunday. Junior setter Ashley Lenington set the record for most assists in a game with 63 under the current 25-point format that was instituted in 2008. As a team, CCSU recorded a program high in kills (73) and assists (67).

Central had good offensive games from sophomore Nicole Dean (12 kills), senior Rachel Dunlap (10), freshman Nicole Celarek (8) and sophomore Brooke Schwab (7). Senior Brittany Schumacher and sophomore Rachel Fish both posted double-digit digs with 17 and 16, respectively.

Central also tallied 11 blocks as a team, but their blocking game wasn’t as effective Sunday afternoon as it had been previously.

“Our block was late and when a block is late it pops the ball up,” said Sagnelli. “We had some awesome touches on defense and we had some touches that I thought could have done a little bit better on. But I think that kind of washed out on both sides because the same was true for them.”

For Sagnelli, the effort and the victory on Sunday made up for the loss on Saturday.

“We were not happy at all with the way we played yesterday and the effort we put forth yesterday. I think today kind of rights that wrong that happened yesterday,” said Sagnelli. “I feel outstanding about the effort they put forth today and they have to feel that way too. That was a well fought match and a deserving victory for us.”

Central will now play three straight games on the road, beginning on Saturday when they visit Bryant, before heading to Pennsylvania next weekend for matches against Robert Morris and St. Francis (Pa.).

“It’s going to be absolutely fine to get back on the road,” said Sagnelli. “We know what Bryant is about so we’ll be able to prepare all week for them. But it’s going to be a fight. I think every match is going to be a fight and it’s going to come down to execution.”

Central won’t play again at home until the Brooklyn schools — LIU-Brooklyn and St. Francis-Brooklyn — come in for the weekend on Nov. 8 and 9.