NEW LONDON – Leading 2-sets-to-1 in the first of two matches Saturday at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Bear Invitational at Roland Field House, the Eastern Connecticut State University women's volleyball team dropped its final five sets by a total of 18 points and was beaten by WPI and Coast Guard in non-conference competition. WPI won by 19-25, 25-20, 19-25,25-19, 15-11 and Coast Guard by 25-22, 25-22, 25-23.
In the five-set loss to WPI (14-10) – where there were 39 ties and lead changes -- Eastern (12-10) led early by three points in the final set, but the Engineers scored four straight points on a kill, service ace and two Eastern attack errors to take command, 9-5.
Against Coast Guard (19-7), ranked No. 9 in New England, Eastern posted its fourth-best attack percentage (.306) of the season, but was doomed by six service errors and 11 reception errors.
In the first set, the Bears took their first lead at 17-16 and never relinquished it, turning a four-point deficit into an 18-16 lead with a run of six straight points.
A 9-2 lead in the second set was not enough of a cushion for Eastern, with Coast Guard breaking the seventh and final tie, 22-22, with a kill and two Eastern attack errors.
Eastern led midway through the third set but faltered again down the stretch as the Bears ended the set by scoring the final six points to wipe out a 23-19 deficit. Three Coast Guard kills and three Eastern errors accounted for those final six points.
On the afternoon, junior Abby Stern (Manchester) had 34 kills on 89 attempts with a .225 attack percentage, while sophomore Anna Barry (Andover) attacked at .400, with 26 kills. Except for Barry, the rest of the team attacked at .183. Senior Mckenzie Maneggia (Andover) had 43 assists, ten digs and four service aces, and senior Sierra Orr (Woodland, WA) 21 assists. Sophomore Madison Bell (Salem) led the team with 29 digs, junior Alaetra Long (Lincoln, NE) adding 23, and Stern 22. Barry had five blocks and senior Natalia Rickey (Plainfield) four.
Having lost five of its last seven, Eastern closes out the regular season Saturday hosting Little East Conference leader Plymouth State University at noon, and will also play a non-conference match against St. Joseph's of Long Island at 4 p.m. A win over Plymouth would give Eastern – last year's LEC regular-season co-champion and tournament titlist – no worse than a share of the regular-season title.
Eastern (5-2 LEC) is among the six teams which will comprise the LEC tournament, which gets underway Nov. 5 with first-round matches. With one match remaining in the regular season, two games separate the top six teams. Eastern is locked in a three-way tie for second with Western Connecticut and UMass Boston. The Warriors hold the tie-breaker over UMass Boston but Western holds the tie-breaker over Eastern.
Western Connecticut hosts UMass Boston Wednesday. The loser will be eliminated from contention for the regular-season title. If UMass Boston wins Wednesday, and Eastern defeats Plymouth Saturday– leaving those three teams tied for the top spot -- the Warriors would, unofficially, gain the No. 1 tournament seed for the second straight year on the strength of their wins over UMass Boston and Plymouth.