By Derek Turner
Senior outside hitter Emily Cochran ended her Senior Day match in style by burying her 1366th career kill between Bryant University defense, securing a Blue Devil 3-1 victory Saturday afternoon.
Emotion consumed the team as the Central Connecticut Volleyball program honored five seniors before their last home match in the Detrick Gymnasium. With their family in tow, one by one the players’ career achievements were announced to the crowd as they made their way to center court for a photo opportunity clutching a bouquet of flowers and framed photo from one of their proudest moments as a Blue Devil.
Bryant had other ideas, even after the CCSU team honored the Bulldog seniors with flowers of their own. Bryant came out of the gate strong, taking advantage of the lack of focus by Central and gaining an early 4-1 lead. CCSU took their first timeout at 10-14, but the black-and-gold extended the first set lead to six points and when it was finally over Bryant had taken the first set by a score of 25-23.
“I thought we had a very slow start, there’s a lot of emotion connected with the day,” said Head Coach Linda Sagnelli.
Central got right back in the match in the second set, almost going point-for-point with Bryant while being tied 11 separate times in the set. A six-point-run starting at 14-15 was a key to the Blue Devils second set win by a score of 25-21.
“We really needed to refocus once the game began and I think it took us the whole first set to get into our rhythm,” said Sagnelli.
Veronika Ban began the third set with five straight points, including four service aces adding to her team lead now at 37, good for second in the Northeast Conference with .46 per game. After a Bryant timeout the Blue Devils were in complete control and extended their third set lead to 13-4 before another Bulldog stoppage of play. Central had come out of their early match funk and played the style of volleyball they had been used to playing all season, easily taking the set 25-17.
“She did a phenomenal job with execution of the services,” said Sagnelli on Ban.
The fourth and what turned out to be the final set was almost a mirror image of the second. Neither team could distance themselves, in fact, the largest point differential was an 11-7 Bryant lead, Photbut a 9-2 CCSU run had other ideas.
The Bulldogs would come back and tie the score six more times, as late as 24-24, but never retook the lead. Senior Blaike King put away her team high 16th kill on the day for the 25th point and Cochran finished off the Bulldogs with her 14th.
Rachel Dunlap contributed 10 kills and assisted on five blocks. Makenna Lommori distributed 43 assists on the day. Libero Allyson Porter led all players with 21 digs.
Porter and Jennifer Waddill, teammates at Santa Barbara City College before coming to CCSU were recognized before the match along with Jamie Rademacher, King and Cochran.
Five seniors is a large class for a volleyball team. Sagnelli is proud of what they have accomplished and what they have done for the school.
“They’ve established a tradition of work ethic, responsibility and just trying to get after it each and every day,” said Sagnelli.
Sunday Central Connecticut traveled to Quinnipiac for their final regular season match and came away with a 3-0 victory. The Blue Devils finish the season with a 17-12 record overall, 12-4 in Northeast Conference play, good for the third seed in this weekend’s NEC tournament.
This will be the Blue Devils 10th consecutive tournament appearance.
“We’ve always been a top team in the conference and a big part of it has been the senior class,” said Sagnelli. “They are Central volleyball.”