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Bulldogs battle CCSU in rivalry rematch Friday at home (7 p.m.)

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SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The Bryant University volleyball team hosts a key matchup that could have playoff implications Friday night at the Chace Athletic Center, welcoming Central Connecticut for a 7 p.m. bout.

The Blue Devils (12-9, 7-2 Northeast Conference) enter Smithfield in second place on the league ladder with five matches to go, having topped Saint Francis U., 3-0, in their last outing. And while CCSU is just 3-4 away from home, only one of those losses has come at the hands of a league opponent (LIU Brooklyn, Oct. 16) – a fact the Bulldogs (15-13, 6-3) will be looking to change Friday night.

Bryant enters the contest tied for third in the conference standings, having swept weekend play Oct. 22-23. The Bulldogs have seven wins at home (7-3), with just a single NEC home loss (Sacred Heart, Oct. 8).

The Black and Gold have been strong in Smithfield this season, hitting at a .203 clip as a team while seeing top blockers Ally Lunsford (Minneola, Fla.) and Ava Patterson (Danville, Calif.) swing better than .300 at the Chace. The former boasts a team-leading .357 attack percentage at home and an overall clip of .330 that ranks second the league, and has put down 65 kills and 28 blocks in Smithfield.

Leading offensive threat and reigning NEC Player of the Week Julia Flynn (Pembroke, Mass.) leads the way with 79 kills in 29 home sets, averaging 2.72 per set for a virtual tie with junior Kiley Robbins (Garland, Texas) (60 kills, 2.73/set). Sophomore setter Kirstyn Sperry (Phoenix, Ariz.) has also been a highlight at home, ranking second on the team in kills (67), assists (130), aces (15) and blocks (20) while playing in front of a friendly crowd.

CCSU is led by Morgan Woycik, who sits atop the Blue Devil stat sheet with 209 kills (2.52/set). Next closest teammate Raquel Quirarte boasts 188 kills, while Cassidy Stankowski (164), Brooke Schwab (119) and Maddie Smith (103) have all surpassed the 100-kill mark on the year.

Smith leads a strong blocking team with 100 stuffs in 84 sets played (1.19/set), often teaming up with Schwab (84) and Woycik (51). As a team, the Blue Devils average 2.46 blocks per set, and Smith and Schwab post the top blocking averages in the NEC. Two Blue Devils have served up 20 or more aces (Erin McDermott, 20; Quirarte, 23), while libero Rachel Fish leads the defense with 373 digs.

Last time these teams met, Sept. 30 in New Britain, Conn., Stankowski was the only player on either side to record double-digit kills (10) while Bulldog senior captain Vika Katzen (Kfar Saba, Israel) was the only player to register a double-double (22 assists, 15 digs). The Blue Devils won the first matchup, 3-0.