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Lunsford leads Bulldogs to 3-2 thriller, Bryant takes down UMass Lowell in return to Smithfield

Photo by: Dave Silverman
Photo by: Dave Silverman

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Junior middle Ally Lunsford (Minneola, Fla.) tied her career high with nine blocks and added 10 kills as the Bryant University volleyball team won a 3-2 thriller over UMass Lowell Wednesday night at the Chace Athletic Center.

The contest was the first at home for the Bulldogs (11-10) since Sept. 6 and avenged a five-set loss to the River Hawks (5-13) back on Sept. 2. Lunsford's 10 kills tied her season best, while sophomore Kirstyn Sperry (Phoenix, Ariz.) fell just two kills short of a triple-double, finishing with eight kills, 17 assists and 13 digs.

Sophomore Julia Flynn (Pembroke, Mass.) added nine kills on the night while classmate Kristin Kingi (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) and rookie Ava Patterson (Danville, Calif.) joined Sperry with eight kills. Seven different Bulldogs recorded at least one block, and the Black and Gold saw 10 team stuffs on the evening. Kingi and junior libero Erica Vendituoli (Nashua, N.H.) led the defense with a match-leading 15 and 11 digs, respectively, while senior captain Vika Katzen (Kfar Saba, Israel) dished out a contest-best 36 assists (6 kills, 9 digs).

Haley Shimon paced the River Hawks and the match with 14 kills, while Madi Bell posted UMass Lowell's only double-double with 10 kills and 11 digs. Delaney Mendez handed out 24 assists, while Lindsey Visvardes picked up 13 digs.

The Bulldogs breezed through the opening set, 25-12, behind three kills and three blocks from Lunsford. Bryant hit a blazing .524 to UMass Lowell's -.074 and saw just a single attack error in the frame.

Bryant opened the second with four-straight points, but the River Hawks responded with seven of their own to take their first lead of the match. UMass Lowell would score 10 of 11 points en route to a 10-5 advantage, but Bryant brought the score back within one quickly, 12-11. The River Hawks would pull out in front once more, though, keeping a multipoint lead through the final 25-20 margin to knot the match at 1-1.

In the third, the Bulldogs clawed back to within one throughout the frame but could never take over the lead from UMass Lowell. A three-point spurt put the visitors out in front, 19-15 and forced a Bryant timeout, but the hosts ran out of time in the stanza, 25-22.

The Bulldogs doubled up the River Hawks, 10-5, to open the fourth, and the home side maintained that five-point edge thanks in part to a solo block and ace from Lunsford. Flynn and Patterson teamed up for a block that drove the score to 17-10 in favor of the Black and Gold, and UMass Lowell would call for a break trailing, 19-11. Sperry and Lunsford put up a big block to put the hosts on set point, and Flynn would hammer home the 25-11 win with a kill to force the fifth set.

UMass Lowell came out in the fifth swinging, capping off a 5-1 run with an ace from Lauren Bennett (7 kills). Flynn would get the Bulldogs back on track with a kill out of a timeout, and Lunsford would follow suit. Two River Hawk attack errors would knot the score at 5-5, and the hosts would take an 8-6 lead soon after and never look back. A Katzen/Lunsford block gave Bryant an 11-7 edge, and the Bulldogs would score four of the next five points to solidify the 3-2 match victory (15-8).

As a team, the Bulldogs hit .196 on the night and totaled six aces, including two apiece from Sperry and Vendituoli. UMass Lowell hit .081 as a unit with 11 team blocks and two aces (9 service errors).

The Bulldogs return to conference play this weekend but remain at home, hosting Sacred Heart Saturday at 1 p.m. and Fairleigh Dickinson Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Chace Athletic Center.