WEST HAVEN, Conn. – The Saint Anselm College volleyball team fell a point short of its first-ever appearance in the title match of Northeast-10 Conference Volleyball Championship as the sixth-seeded Hawks fell in five sets (22-25, 17-25, 25-22, 27-25, 15-10) to the seventh-seeded Owls of Southern Connecticut State University in the tournament's semifinals on Friday evening at Charger Gymnasium.
Coming off its first-ever victory in the NE10 Championship on Tuesday at Bentley, Saint Anselm (16-12) raced out to a two-sets-to-none lead on Southern Connecticut (23-9), but the Owls roared back to edge the Hawks in their second-straight five-setter. The Owls will make their first appearance in the championship match when they take on top seed and host New Haven, which outlasted fifth-seeded Stonehill in five sets earlier in the night, on Saturday evening.
Senior Amanda Williams tallied a career-high 22 kills and hit .422 to pace the Hawks offensively. Sophomore Catherine McCarthy added 15 kills and senior Katy Teets pitched in with 13 while hitting .393 on the night. Junior Jewel Hays racked up a double-double of 49 assists and 20 digs, as did senior Danielle Isbell with 26 digs and a career-best 14 assists, while junior Gianna Bowman contributed a career-high 15 digs.
Gabriela Vazquez and Leanna Jadus each matched Williams with 22 kills for Southern Connecticut while hitting over .320 in the match. Alyssa Gage joined the pair in double figures with 10 kills and Alexandria Jurgens handed out 48 assists. Jadus added 12 digs to her 22 kills for a double-double.
The Hawks flew out to an early 8-2 lead in the opening set after a 7-0 run on Isbell's serve that included three kills by Williams and two from McCarthy. After trailing 17-10, the Owls evened the set at 22-22 late on as Jadus had back-to-back kills as part of a 4-0 run to tie it up. Saint Anselm regrouped to close out the set by winning the final three points, sealing it on a Holly Manchester kill. The Hawks hit .447 without an error in the first set, with Williams recording seven kills on 11 swings without an error.
Saint Anselm again got out to an early lead in the second, opening up an 8-3 advantage after a McCarthy kill. Southern Connecticut trimmed a 17-8 deficit to just four, 18-14, later in the set but that was as close as the Owls would get. Saint Anselm limited Southern Connecticut to a .065 attack percentage in the second.
Trailing two sets to none, the Owls used an 8-2 run to build a 15-9 lead in the third. Towards the end of the set, Southern Connecticut brought up six set points with a 24-18 cushion. The Hawks fended off four of the six set points before Gage ended the set with a kill.
In the fourth, Saint Anselm strung together eight-straight points on the Isbell serve to go ahead 9-4. Southern Connecticut cut the gap to just two only for the Hawks to stretch it to seven, 18-11, after Williams had four kills in a five-point span. Down seven, the Owls responded, saving two match points to pull even at 24-24 before breaking a 25-25 tie with a Jadus kill and a block to send the match to a decider.
A 2-0 Saint Anselm lead to start the fifth was the largest lead of the decider until the Owls rattled off five consecutive points to pull ahead 12-8. A kill by Teets and a service error by the Owls kept the Hawks within three points until Southern Connecticut completed its comeback with a kill by Vazquez and a block by Gage. The Owls hit .429 with one error in the fifth set and got six kills on seven swings from Vazquez in the set.
Saint Anselm will await word on a potential at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. The field will be announced on Monday, Nov. 27 at 7:30 p.m. ET. Fans can watch the show here.