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Loss to Sacred Heart Ends Slow Starting Volleyball Season

By Chris McLaughlin

The Blue Devils’ 3-2 loss in a five set match to top seeded Sacred Heart in the NEC tournament marked the end of a season plagued by a slow start.

During the match, CCSU traded set victories until Sacred Heart closed it out in the fifth and final set.

“It was a great competitive match,” said Head Coach Linda Sagnelli. “Both teams played very well, and went at each other. There were a lot of exciting volleys but in the end the ball bounced their way a couple more times.”

The Blue Devils finished the season 11-18 overall, and entered the NEC Tournament for the eighth time. The team got off to a rough start, dropping eight of the first 10 decisions, but were able to pick up play around the middle of the season.

“The one thing I would change about this season would be our slow start,” said Sagnelli. “We didn’t get into a rhythm, and injuries came into play. We weren’t able to get consistent with all of our different lineups, but we were able to give our players more experience.”

With the injury to Tori Vaughn, Maite Mendizabal got her play time, and really came into her own.

“Maite really came through for us and contributed in a position she wasn’t trained to play,” said Sagnelli.

After all of the tough losses during the beginning of the season, the Blue Devils developed a bond that was noticeable on the court.

“Around mid season we developed a personality. I told them if we get pushed we have to push back, and they took on that personality and fought for every match.”

This mentality showed up throughout the second half of the season, especially during a six match streak of every match going all five sets. While the Blue Devils didn’t win every match, CCSU battled in all of them, constantly overcoming deficits and never giving up.

“This persona really showed up in our victories over LIU and Quinnipiac. Those games described the fight for this season, I love how they fought and never gave up,” said Sagnelli.

After the season, two Blue Devils were awarded All-Conference awards. Kaitlin Petrella was named the NEC Libero of the year for the second year straight and was named to the First Team All-NEC squad. Sara DeLacey was also honored by being named to the Second Team All-NEC.

“Around mid way through the season everything started clicking for Sara. I can’t wait to watch her development, she is going to be unstoppable next year,” said Sagnelli.

With the season over, Coach Sagnelli finds herself in the difficult position of replacing two integral parts of her team. Both Petrella and Amanda Bayer will be graduating this year.

Petrella is CCSU’s all-time dig leader and a two-time NEC Libero of the year, and Bayer is the all-time assists leader. Petrella runs the defense while Bayer runs the offense, so their replacements have big shoes to fill.

“You can’t really replace Kaitlin Petrella. She was our defensive anchor for all four years, but we are fortunate to have had Amalia Ashley in our system for a year. She has been training all year to replace Petrella,” said Sagnelli.

Danielle Gasser will be taking over for Bayer, and Sagnelli feels she is ready to make the transition.

“She is more than ready,” said Sagnelli. “She has been on the court all year, and she’s a great leader, she was our co-captain this year. She knows she has big shoes to fill, but she is ready to do it. Graduating them isn’t easy, but we hope we can build upon what they’ve done.”

Even thought the season just ended, Coach Sagnelli is already excited for next year.

“It’s so competitive right now, Sacred Heart has a very steady team and Robert Morris and LIU will be right back in there. Our conference is very close, I’m really looking forward to getting back out there.”

With her core of seniors gone, Coach Sagnelli will have a new look team out on the court, but the goal will always remain the same: capture the team’s first NEC title.

Volleyball Falls to Sacred Heart in Five Sets

By Chris McLaughlin

The CCSU Volleyball team  (9-17 (6-8 NEC))was defeated by NEC rival Sacred Heart University three sets to two one in Wednesday’s match up.

The Blue Devils lost the first two sets 25-23 and 28-18, before bouncing back to win the next two sets 25-19 and 15-22. Despite the comeback, CCSU would drop the final set 15-13 to lose the match to the top NEC team.

“We’ve been fighters all year; we’ve been through quite a lot together. I’m disappointed we lost, but I’m proud of the way we played. If we execute we can beat anybody,” said Head Coach Linda Sagnelli.

During the first set, CCSU was able to keep it close, but a few crucial errors kept them from winning. The Blue Devils made seven errors on attacks while Sacred Heart only made four. This proved to be the difference as the Blue Devils lost by only two points. Sacred Heart sophomore Elise Sage led all attackers with five kills, while CCSU had four players with three kills each.

“Game one, the focus was there but the execution wasn’t. It was disappointing to lose the set the way we did,” said Sagnelli.

While the first set was close, the second set was not. During the set CCSU was only able to score on five kills, while Sacred Heart’s attackers found the floor 18 times. Sacred Heart also compiled 18 assists while CCSU was only able to get five. The final score was only as close as it was, because of six serving errors by Sacred Heart and eight CCSU blocks.

“In game two we had eight bad passes on one option balls, added with all of our net violations we gave them around 15 points. We still weren’t executing the way we needed to, and we were leaving way too many holes on the court,” said Sagnelli.

Although Sacred Heart once again had more kills than CCSU, the Blue Devils made fewer mistakes and were able to come out on top. Sacred Heart had 14 kills and 11 assists, both of which topped CCSU, but made nine attack errors and four serve errors. CCSU also kept up their domination of the net with eight blocks. Down two sets, CCSU continued to battle and were rewarded with the victory.

“During the break between sets two and three, my main focus was executing better. I told them if we execute we can win the match, if we don’t were going to lose all three sets,” said Sagnelli.

CCSU was able to keep up their momentum for the fourth set, and once again capitalized on Sacred Heart errors. For the fourth straight set, Sacred Heart had more kills and assists than CCSU, but for the second consecutive set they made more errors. Nine attacking errors and five serving errors prevented Sacred Heart from winning the match in the fourth set. Once again, CCSU dominated the net with 12 blocks, including rejecting the last three Sacred Heart attacks to send the game into the fifth set. By the end of the set, CCSU seemed to have all the momentum, and looked prepared to upset the number one team in their conference.

“The only thing I talked about for the fourth set was for a strong block. I couldn’t have asked them to do any better,” said Sagnelli.

With momentum on the Blue Devils’ side, CCSU came out strong in the fifth set. The team jumped out to an early lead before Sacred Heart remembered who the number one team, and started playing like it. Sacred Heart overcame CCSU’s momentum to tie the game, before CCSU’s errors ended it. The Blue Devils once again made fewer errors, but the ones they did make came at critical points, including the final play of the match.

“Game five could have gone either way,” said Sagnelli. “We had some miscues and we were under setting the ball. The little things matter and they made the difference in this one.”

Even though CCSU didn’t win the game, the fact that the team took the number one squad to its limits, which gives the Blue Devils confidence going into the last stretch of the season.

“We’re in a fight for fourth place but if we make it in we can beat anybody. We had a tough first half of the season, but we’ve pulled together and our bond is starting to show on the court,” said Sagnelli.

The Blue Devils season is winding down, with only two matches left to secure a spot in the NEC tournament. CCSU plays the final home game of the season on Saturday Nov. 13 against the number two team in the NEC, Long Island University.

Blue Devils Win Secures Their Spot in NEC Tournament

By Chris McLaughlin

The CCSU volleyball team defeated NEC rival St. Francis (PA) in five sets on Sunday.

With the win, CCSU improved their record to 8-15 (5-6 NEC). The win helps secure fourth place in the conference, allowing CCSU to participate in the NEC tournament.

CCSU lost the first set 25-18, but rebounded to win the second set 25-23. They went on to lose the third set 25-20 but once again bounced back in the next set to win 25-18. In the final set, CCSU came out on top 15-12 to complete the match with a victory.

“We were very inconsistent today,” said Head Coach Linda Sagnelli. “It was very frustrating, but we were lucky to pull it out.”
CCSU got off to a slow start, dropping the first set of the match. St. Francis led in every stat during the first set. The were able to score on 13 of their attacks with a kill percentage of .357.

They were also able to dominate the net, posting six blocks to CCSUs none. Emily Cochran led the way for CCSU with three kills, but had just as many errors as she did kills. The errors cost CCSU during the first set, as they made more than St. Francis, including 2 blocking errors.

“Our block wasn’t setting itself very well, it took us to game four before we started playing defense,” said Sagnelli.

While CCSU won the second set, St. Francis errors played a large role. St. Francis had 11 attack errors and five serve errors that helped CCSU come back from the one-set deficit.

The Blue Devils’ kills were spread out with four girls having two a piece. CCSU had less kills during the second set, but were able to commit less errors on the attacks to overcome St. Francis.

“Blaike picked it up tremendously. Emily was struggling with her attacks, their blockers seemed to be waiting on her, so it was huge to have Blaike play the way she did,” said Sagnelli.

The third set went much the same way as the first, with St. Francis making less errors and dominating the net. St. Francis had twice as many blocks as CCSU did during the set, and committed less errors than they had all match. They also were able to score on 17 attacks with a percentage that almost doubled the Blue Devil’s.

Lindsey Malloy led all scorers with seven kills for St. Francis, while Blaike King had six of her own to lead CCSU.

“St. Francis played great today. They gave us a lot of trouble, but these girls have been fighting like crazy the past two weeks, I knew they weren’t going to give up,” said Sagnelli.

During the fourth set, CCSU came alive, and finally had a set where they were able to impose their will. Emily Cochran and Sara DeLacey posted four kills a piece and Jamie Rademacher had three blocks to help CCSU overcome another one set deficit. St. Francis once again made more errors than CCSU, but they didn’t impact the outcome as much as they had before.

With the performance in the fourth set, CCSU was able to carry momentum into the fifth and final set.

“The defense finally showed up in the fourth set. Jamie started to close the block and did a great job preventing them from getting easy kills,” said Sagnelli.

For the second straight day, the CCSU volleyball team fought their way back to force a fifth set. While they weren’t able to pull out a victory the day before, today was a different story. CCSU kept up their momentum from the previous set, and for the first time all match, a team won two consecutive sets.

Emily Cochran no longer seemed to have difficulty hitting her spots on the attacks, and led CCSU with six kills. CCSU was able to score on 11 attacks during the fifth set which kept them in the lead the whole set. They also combined for 11 digs which more than doubled St. Francis.

The match was closed out on a Emily Cochran kill that was her most emphatic of the day.

“The last point was the biggest of the day, she had been struggling so it was big she was able to fight through it and get that last one off.” said Sagnelli.

CCSU goes on the road this week to play St. Francis (NY) on Friday and Fairleigh Dickinson on Saturday. They return home on November 10 to face Sacred Heart and play their final home game of the season on November 13 to play Long Island.

“The Long Island game is going to be a good one,” said Sagnelli. “They beat us earlier in the season, and we cant wait to get them back. I know I can’t anyway, too bad my eligibility is up.”

Blue Devils Volleyball Defeated by Passionate Colonials

By Christopher McLaughlin

The CCSU volleyball team was defeated by the Robert Morris Colonials in five sets on Saturday.

The team lost the first two sets 25-23 and 25-22 before bouncing back to win the next two sets 25-18 and 25-10. The Blue Devils (7-15, 4-6 NEC) would go on to lose the final set 15-9 to complete the match.

“The first two sets could have gone either way,” said Head Coach Linda Sagnelli. “Unfortunately, a couple volleys went against us and we weren’t able to come out on top.”

RMU was able to jump out to a two set lead thanks to timely attacks. The Colonials had a lower kill percentage but were able to score more kills than CCSU. The team was also able to record more digs and assists than CCSU, although the numbers were close.

CCSU was able to keep the first two sets close because of their dominance on the net. The Blue Devils had 12 blocks to RMU’s four during the first two sets, but were still unable to get the victories.

CCSU also had to adjust to playing without Tori Vaughn in the middle as she was sidelined with an injury.

“I’m incredibly proud of the way they were able to adjust,” said Sagnelli. “We only had one day of practicing with Sara DeLacey in the middle but she did a phenomenal job once she got into a rhythm. Putting her in the middle absolutely paid off, they had no answer for her.”

After losing the first two sets, CCSU showed resiliency as the girls were able to grind out a win. CCSU showed tremendous heart during the third set by staying aggressive and continuing with the attack.

CCSU combined for 14 kills during the third set, and had a kill percentage well over 100 points higher than RMU’s. As the third set wore on, RMU started to come unraveled, and began making mistakes unlike before. The mistakes didn’t go unnoticed by RMU Head Coach Dale Starr, who began berating his team after each one.

CCSU noticed them as well, and kept up their relentless assault and closed out the set in dominating fashion.

“Win or lose, all we want to see is fight. Every player has to fight, and today they all did us proud,” said Sagnelli.

During the fourth set, CCSU scored the first five points after two kills and two blocks by DeLacey. RMU appeared to be a little rattled in the third set, but during the fourth the Colonials had a complete meltdown.

With the Head Coach in an absolute fury, he called time out after CCSU jumped out to a 6-0 lead. After a minute of stomping, screaming and obscene gestures by Starr, the timeout was over and play resumed, for CCSU anyway.

After the timeout, the heart seemed to be completely taken out of RMU’s players, and they seemed to just go through the motions as CCSU continued to pour it on. While CCSU had less kills than in any of the first three sets, the Blue Devils did so with unrivaled efficiency.

Over half of the attacks found the floor, and the lead continued to grow. During the set, CCSU was able to exploit RMU on the serves, as RMU had significant trouble handling the serves from Amanda Bayer and Emily Cochran.

“Amanda and Emily got into a great rotation and once we got going I was able to manipulate the set with our serves. Both of them did an excellent job of hitting their spots and Robert Morris had difficulty getting back into rotation allowing us to get some easy kills,” said Sagnelli.

CCSU completely dominated the fourth set, and it appeared as though an epic comeback was about to happen. However, in between sets, RMU senior Amanda Graham gave an intense speech to the rest of her team that seemed to fire them up in a way the coach had been trying to achieve for the past two sets.

When the fifth set began, the atmosphere was totally different. The meltdown of the previous set was over, and RMU came out for vengeance in the fifth set. The Colonials jumped out to an early lead, which pumped up the team even more.

RMU converted kills on seven attacks, while CCSU only did on four, despite taking the same number of attempts. The fire that the coach had put out was back in RMU, and the Colonials were able to close out both the set and the match strong.

“They played great defense during the final set and we lost out on some great volleys. Despite losing, I’m extremely proud of the way we played we showed a lot of heart and I hope we play this way every match,” said Sagnelli.

Volleyball Digs Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness

By Christopher McLaughlin

The CCSU Volleyball team joined the efforts to raise breast cancer awareness by hosting the Dig Pink Rally while at home against the Quinnipiac Bobcats on Oct. 23.

Dig Pink is a breast cancer awareness rally that takes place nation-wide during the Breast Cancer awareness month of October. Both high school and college volleyball teams participate in the rally.

The event is sponsored by the Side-Out Foundation, which was founded in 2004 in an attempt to unite volleyball players and coaches all over America to spread Breast Cancer awareness, education and patient services.

Dig Pink is the trademark name used by the Side-Out Foundation for all of their fundraising events. The proceeds of the event are donated to medical research organizations and organizations dedicated to providing compassionate care to breast cancer patients and their families.

Over 1,000 volleyball teams participate in the event, which includes over 200 colleges and 500 high schools. Each year more and more support is gained for the Side-Out Foundation, allowing them to increase their efforts, and reach their goals of raising funds for research and support for breast cancer.

Each year the NEC Volleyball teams vote for which school hosts the event. CCSU hosted the event two years ago, and received the votes to allow them to host it again this year. The rally was led by Associate Athletic Director Amy Strickland who worked hard to make everything possible.

“I worked a lot with Coach Sagnelli, and together we were able to come up with some ideas to make this day special,” said Strickland.
In addition to raising money for the cause, Strickland and Sagnelli came up with several other ways to make this event fun. Pink water bottles, bracelets, and ribbons were given out during the event. Strickland designed a web page to help promote the cause and provide information.

She also sent out newsletters to high schools inviting them to come to the rally. Strickland also partnered with the CCSU Women’s Center to further spread the cause.

“We worked hard to promote this event. The Women’s Center was happy to get involved and help out. It’s great that it really worked out well for us,” said Strickland.

To help honor the event, both teams wore special pink jerseys while playing. “It was a wonderful event,” said volleyball Head Coach Linda Sagnelli, who was also sporting pink. “We are so pleased to be able to help out and raise money and spread awareness. The event is held throughout the country and it’s a wonderful opportunity to host this event for such a great cause.”

Since this was a special event for CCSU, all of the athletic teams came to show support and help cheer on the Blue Devils.

“This was a big event and we had a great turnout not only from family and friends but from the other teams as well. All of them were here and it’s great to see the student athletes show their support the way they did,” said Strickland.

While the Dig Pink Rally is held every year, it only takes place at one school per division. The program will not be held at CCSU next year but that doesn’t mean that CCSU won’t continue their support.

“We will have it back in two years but we are planning to do something special next year. We already have the support of the Women’s Center and we are already looking forward to it. It’s fun and easy and for a great cause so we are happy to do it,” says Strickland.

Fans seeking more information about Dig Pink or those looking to donate can visit the website www.digpink.org.

Volleyball Outplays Quinnipiac in 3-0 Win

By Chris McLaughlin

The CCSU Volleyball (6-14, 3-5 NEC) team defeated NEC division rival, the Quinnipiac Bobcats in a sweep of three sets to zero on Oct. 23.

The match took place in front of a raucous crowd who came out to show their support for the Dig!Pink breast cancer awareness event hosted by the CCSU team.

“The crowd was really into it today,” said Head Coach Linda Sagnelli. “The girls really fed off the crowd. It was a great atmosphere for volleyball.”

The Blue Devils won topped the Bobcats with sets of 25-18, 25-21, and 25-21 respectively.

CCSU won the first set by playing much more efficiently than the Bobcats. The Blue Devils posted a kill percentage of .265, which was significantly higher than the Bobcats .088.

Emily Cochran led the way with six kills while Amanda Bayer single-handedly had more assists than the Bobcats 12 to 10. Danielle Gasser had an impressive string of serves including an ace that helped put the Bobcats down for the set.

“Danielle had great command of her serve,” said Sagnelli “Not just great strength but great accuracy; she really hit her spots and did an outstanding job causing them trouble.”

The Blue Devils picked up the second set right where they left off and quickly pulled ahead. The effort the Blue Devils put in on serves paid off, causing the Bobcats to make four serving errors during the second set. The Bobcats had difficulty setting up their offense during the second match up, which created a lot of opportunities for CCSU’s attackers.

The second game saw CCSU almost double the amount of attacks from Quinnipiac 50-32. CCSU was able to score on 14 of them which also almost doubled the kills of Quinnipiac.

The Blue Devils had three players with four kills, and for the second straight set Amanda Bayer had more assists than the entire Bobcat team.

“We were able to put a lot of pressure on them,” said Sagnelli. “We noticed they had trouble shifting from defense to swing so we kept pressing them and luckily we were able to execute.”

CCSU kept up the pressure for the third and final set and were able to close out the match with a sweep. CCSU was able to build a large lead, that at one point saw them up 20-10, but the Bobcats never gave up and clawed their way back into the game.

The Bobcats appeared on the verge of a comeback until Stephanie Biediger hit one of her serves directly into the net. The error gave the team the momentum needed to help close out the match.

CCSU managed to get more kills, assists, and digs than the Bobcats, but their unforced errors nearly came back to haunt them.

Emily Cochran once again led the way with four kills and Kaitlin Petrella had seven digs, including some acrobatic diving ones that got the crowd on its feet.

“It was a great win; we showed a ton of emotion and energy, and the crowd was wonderful,” said Sagnelli.

For the second time in three years CCSU volleyball team hosted the Dig!Pink event. In addition to both family and friends, all of CCSU’s athletic teams showed up to support both the event.

The Blue Devils go back on the road this week when they play at Bryant on Wednesday, but will return home for a pair of games next weekend.