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Bryant heads south for Mason Invitational Friday and Saturday

Photo by: Dave Silverman
Photo by: Dave Silverman

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The Bryant University volleyball team heads south for a three-match set at the Mason Invitational Friday and Saturday, hosted by George Mason in Fairfax, Va.

Bryant (5-8) opens the tournament Friday night against the host Patriots, taking on George Mason at 7 p.m. The Bulldogs will then play a Saturday doubleheader against Loyola (11 a.m.) and Hampton (4:30 p.m.) before returning to Rhode Island.

The Bulldogs finished off their last tournament with a victory, 3-0, against Manhattan before taking a straight-set win over Holy Cross Tuesday night on the road. They will be looking for their first winning streak of the season Friday night against the George Mason.

Bryant enters the Mason Invitational riding the hot hands of Julia Flynn (Pembroke, Mass.) and Erica Vendituoli (Nashua, N.H.). The latter comes off a big week, having been named a Columbia Classic All-Tournament Team selection as well as the Northeast Conference Defensive Player of the Week after taking over libero duties for the Black and Gold. She enters the tournament with 120 digs on the 2016 season.

Flynn is the Bulldogs' top offensive threat, averaging 3.06 kills per set with 95 in total on the year. Right behind her sits senior captain Sara DePouw (Oconto, Wis.), who has posted 88 kills and 12 blocks with a .267 attack percentage. Junior Kiley Robbins (Garland, Texas) also averages better than 2.5 kills per set with 83 on the year.

Junior Ally Lunsford (Minneola, Fla.) and senior captain and starting setter Vika Katzen (Kfar Saba, Israel) are the most accurate attackers on the Bulldog side with clips of .386 (66 kills) and .319 (64), respectively. But both lead the team in other categories, with Lunsford serving as the squad's top blocker (24) and Katzen dishing out 330 assists. Another top all-around player this season has been sophomore setter Kirstyn Sperry (Phoenix, Ariz.), who leads the group in aces (16) and ranks fourth on the team in kills (69) and digs (87), second in assists (169) and third in blocks (18).

Scouting the George Mason (2-8)
The Patriots are looking to snap a seven-match losing streak at their own tournament, a stretch that has seen the weekend hosts win just four sets. Mikala Wells leads the team with 112 kills, averaging 3.20 per set, with a team-leading eight aces. Tiffany Clarke is close behind with 98 kills (2.80/set) and a side-high .254 attack percentage. Sydney Fanoga (28), Kelly Fagan (26) and Clarke (21) all boast over 20 blocks on the year, while Catie Espinoza is the top dog in the back row with 151 digs. Kelly Schaller and Caitlyn Hipsher share setting duties with 245 and 136 assists, respectively.

Scouting the Greyhounds (3-5)
Ann Ernst leads Loyola with an impressive 4.07 kills per set (110), but she is often a one-woman show, with the next highest scorer recording only 45 kills on the year (1.96/set). Erin Cunningham paces the team on defense with 99 digs, while Molly Jarvis is the top blocker with 24 stuffs in 27 sets played. Megan Mondon (120) and Molly Werts (104) shoulder the setting duties for an offense that hits at a .159 clip as a team. Among Loyola's wins is a victory over fellow NEC member St. Francis Brooklyn, 3-1, and the Greyhounds will be looking to avoid their first losing streak of the season when they open Mason Invitational play Friday against Hampton.

Scouting the Pirates (0-8)
Hampton has yet to win a set on the 2016 season and will be looking to change their fate Friday and Saturday. Reeana Richardson paces the offense with 73 total kills (3.04/set) while Lena Washington adds 41 more. The pair are also the top defensive stat getters with 44 and 43 digs, respectively, while the latter has contributed 18 blocks. Kyndall Nicholas leads at the net with 21 stuffs, and Brianna Lilly has dished out 180 dimes to quarterback the offense.

Fans can follow along with live stats for all three matches at bryantbulldogs.com.