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Bulldogs set DI program blocking record in 3-2 win over Pioneers

Photo by: Dave Silverman
Photo by: Dave Silverman

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Behind a career-high 11-block effort from junior middle blocker Taylor Onoyan (Crystal Lake, Ill.) and a record-setting team blocking effort, the Bryant University volleyball team kept its playoff hopes alive with a 3-2 road win over Sacred Heart Thursday night.

Onoyan added to her career night with 10 kills and a stellar .474 attack percentage, picking up the first double-double of her career in the five-set victory, one of two double-doubles on the night for the Bulldogs (11-22, 6-7 Northeast Conference). Senior Elena Lohr (Loveland, Ohio) recorded the other with 12 kills and 11 digs (3 blocks), while reigning four-time NEC Rookie of the Week Natascha Scarff (Geneva, Switzerland) paced the match offensively with 17 kills (9 digs, 5 blocks).

But the story of the night was the Bulldogs' play at the net, as the Black and Gold followed Onoyan to 20.5 team blocks, setting a new Division I program record and reaching 20 team stuffs for just the second time in the program's DI era (20.0 at Brown, Sept. 10, 2009). The 20.5 team blocks rank third all-time in the Bulldogs' single-match records, while Onoyan's 10 block assists sit tied for second on the individual single-match marks. Her 11 total blocks are good for seventh overall.

Despite the success the Bulldogs found at the net, Bryant needed five sets to finish off its host Thursday night on the road. Sacred Heart (9-18, 4-9) took the first set, 25-18, before the Black and Gold came back to take a 2-1 match advantage with 25-21 and 25-15 wins in the second and third frames, respectively. The fourth saw the Pioneers reverse the trend, taking a 25-21 victory to force the deciding final set.

But the fifth was all Bulldogs, thanks largely to the serving of sophomore Carissa Gould (Woonsocket, R.I.) and senior Jana Kmec (Stratford, Conn.). The Pioneers started out with the advantage, opening up a quick 3-1 lead. A kill by rookie Kiley Robbins (Garland, Texas) (6 kills, 5 blocks) gave Gould the ball, and the second-year Bulldog served up the next four Bryant points en route to a 6-3 visitor advantage. A kill from Sacred Heart's Jene Lee closed the gap to 6-4, but it would be the final Pioneer point of the match, as Kmec served up three aces during an eight-point unanswered Bryant stretch that saw the visitors take it, 15-4, for the 3-2 match win.

Kmec finished the night with 17 assists, three aces and six digs, while rookie Alexandra Lunsford (Minneola, Fla.) added nine blocks with six kills. Redshirt-freshman setter Vika Nesterov (Kfar Saba, Israel) dished out 29 assists with seven digs and six blocks, while junior libero Debora Magalhaes (Belo Horizonte, Brazil) added a match-leading 17 digs for the Black and Gold.

Sacred Heart got 15 kills from Sarah Krufka in the loss, while Katie Direnzo picked up five blocks (9 kills) to lead the hosts at the net (7.0 team blocks). Tori Kemper added 13 kills and nine digs, while Lee finished the night with 11 kills. Marie Zimmerman registered a match-high 48 assists.

The Bulldogs return to action Sunday afternoon, taking on Fairleigh Dickinson on the road in the 2014 regular-season finale (1 p.m.). Bryant needs a victory and a Central Connecticut loss to clinch the final slot in the four-team NEC Tournament.