WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – Third-seeded Keene State College pulled out a two-point first-set victory and went on to eliminate second-seeded and three-time defending champion University of Massachusetts Boston in four sets Friday and advance to the championship match of the 2018 Little East Conference women's volleyball championship against top-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University.
Keene (22-9) avenged a four-game home regular-season loss to UMass Boston (17-9) by defeating the Beacons, who had captured eight of the previous nine titles. Scores were 26-24, 20-25, 25-19, 25-22.
After downing fifth-seeded Rhode Island College (15-12) in four sets during the regular season in Providence, Eastern (22-6) swept the Anchorwomen Friday, 25-15, 25-23, 25-18, improving to 9-1 at home this year.
Eastern will be making its 13th championship-game appearance when it hosts the Owls Saturday at 5 p.m., the teams meeting for only the second time ever in the title game. The Warriors (6-6 in title games) swept the Owls in the 2005 championship tilt at Geissler Gym. Eastern won the last of three straight titles in 2007, while Keene has lost in its last five trips to the title game after downing UMass Boston in the 2008 championship game at home in five sets. Keene is 1-6 in the final.
Coming off Tuesday's first-round sweep of sixth-seeded Plymouth State University Tuesday, Keene got 13 kills and a .333 attack percentage from Niamh Dodd against UMB, 30 assists from Bailey Wilson and 23 digs and a .962 reception percentage from Riley Bunker.
UMass had set point in the first set before Keene reeled off the final four points. The Owls broke serve and remained alive on a kill by Olivia Mathieu, and with Kait West serving, got kills from Dodd and Mathieu to surge ahead, and a UMass Boston attack error handed Keene the key opening set.
All-around standout Eileen Shi led UMB with 19 kills on 56 attempts and also had five service aces, a .960 reception percentage on 25 tries, and 15 digs. Emilia Czapiewska added 13 kills and Macayla Chianco a match-high 30 digs and a .967 reception percentage on 30 attempts. Carsen Komminsk and Christina Elliott combined for 39 assists.
After defeating Rhode Island by ten in the opening set, the Warriors survived a tight second set that featured 13 ties and eight lead changes before the hosts emerged with the important two-point victory. A kill by RIC's Eden Anthony forged the final tie, 23-23. ith RIC serving, however, six-foot freshman Anna Barry (Andover) gave the Warriors the lead for good with a kill, and sophomore Abby Stern's (Manchester) kill off an assist from freshman libero Madison Bell (Salem) pushed the Warriors into their 2-0 lead. Stern was 5-for-5 and Barry 3-for-4 in kills in that second set.
Against RIC, Eastern attacked at .369 and collected nine service aces against just four reception errors. Barry had 14 kills on 19 attempts without an error for a .737 attack percentage; Long was 10-for-17 with one error (.529) and senior Caryn Sibiski (Rockfall) 6-for-13 without an error (.462). Senior Leah Sopneski (Deep River) and junior Mckenzie Maneggia (Andover) combined for 37 assists and Bell contributed 11 digs and was perfect on 20 receptions. Sophomore Alaetra Long (Lincoln, NE) added ten kills with a .529 attack percentage, 13 digs and committed only one error on 16 receptions.
Freshman Amelia Murphy led RIC with 12 kills and a .290 attack percentage but the rest of the team attacked at just .018. Jacqueline Jutras set for 27 assists, libero Marisa Brynes had 16 digs and had a .955 reception percentage on 22 attempts.