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Bulldogs host conference matches in busy weekend against Pioneers and Knights

Photo by DSPics.com
Photo by DSPics.com
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SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The Bryant University volleyball team plays its first home Northeast Conference matches this weekend, hosting Sacred Heart Saturday at 1:00 p.m. and Fairleigh Dickinson Sunday at 1:00 p.m.

The Bulldogs (11-10, 2-0) are just 3-11 against the Pioneers (11-6, 4-0). But after losing the first 10 matches in the series, they have defeated Sacred Heart in three of the last four matchups. Bryant has had much more success against the Knights (2-18, 1-3), holding a 9-6 advantage with just two losses coming at home in seven tries.

Following a month away from home, the Bulldogs returned to the Chace Athletic Center on Wednesday night against UMass Lowell and earned a thrilling five-set victory. The Black and Gold dominated the first set (25-12), but dropped sets two and three before owning the fourth set (25-11) and taking the deciding fifth (15-8). Junior Ally Lunsford (Minneola, Fla.) was the only Bulldog with double-digit kills (10), senior Vika Katzen (Kfar Saba, Israel) had a match high 36 assists, and sophomore Kirstyn Sperry (Phoenix, Ariz.) had eight kills with 17 assists and 13 digs. Sophomore Julia Flynn (Pembroke, Mass.) tallied nine kills and sophomore Kristin Kingi (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) and freshman Ava Patterson (Danville, Calif.) each hammered home eight kills.

Bryant continues to lead the NEC and now ranks fifth nationally with 985 team kills and third with 925 assists. Senior Sara DePouw (Oconto, Wisc.) continues to pace her team with 142 kills, but the top three Bulldogs are separated by just seven kills, as Flynn is up to 137 and Kiley Robbins (Garland, Texas) has 135. Sperry and Lunsford follow with 129 each, as the latter leads the league with a 0.365 hitting percentage.

Defensively, junior libero Erica Vendituoli (Nashua, N.H.) continues to head the Bulldogs with 241 digs, followed by the NEC assist leader Katzen with 193 digs. Lunsford is now up to 49 blocks on the year and Patterson and Sperry aid at the net with 38 and 33 blocks, respectively.

Scouting the Pioneers

Sacred Heart is one of the hottest teams in the NEC and is currently in the midst of an eight-match winning streak with a perfect mark through four conference contests. The Pioneers lead the NEC in aces per set, assists per set, hitting percentage and kills per set.

They are led by senior Sarah Krufka (216 kills) and sophomore Makayla Dole (201 kills), who sit first and second in kills per set in the conference with 3.60 and 3.35, respectively. Senior Allison Riggs has added 104 kills and junior Maddie Losure has one fewer, as the former sits right behind Lunsford with a 0.344 hitting percentage.

Junior setter Kiki Robinson heads the squad in the passing department, having doled out 378 assists, while senior position mate Lea Lieb has 295 helpers. Defensively, four Pioneers have triple-digit digs, led by senior libero Ana Gonzalez with 200. Dole and Robinson trail with 156 and 134, respectively.

Scouting the Knights

Fairleigh Dickinson has not been as successful this season, currently sitting second-to-last in the NEC. But after opening the season 0-17, the Knights have won two of the last three matches. Sophomore outside hitter Rebecca Sabol paces the offense with 162 kills, followed by senior Caroline Laton with 127 and junior Taylor Wyckoff with 103. Freshman setter Kirstin Trabert owns the position on the team, facilitating over 50 percent of points with 480 assists, 364 more than the next highest.

The Knights have been solid defensively with five players posting over 100 digs. Junior Carly O'Sullivan ranks fourth in the conference with 4.31 digs per set, leading the squad with 310 which are the third most in the league. Laton has been stellar at the net on the defensive side, utilizing her 6-2 frame to stuff 68 attack attempts, the second most in the NEC.

Both matches this weekend serve up at 1:00 p.m., can each be followed along via livestats on BryantBulldogs.com, Twitter @BryantGameday or seen live online on NECFrontRow.com.