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Bulldogs battle hard but top-seeded Pioneers secure a 3-0 victory on Saturday afternoon

Bulldogs battle hard but top-seeded Pioneers secure a 3-0 victory on Saturday afternoon

SMITHFIELD, R.I. - The Bryant University volleyball team came out strong in the first set against NEC-leading Sacred Heart, but the Pioneers took one step closer to securing the hosting spot in the tournament, as they took down the Bulldogs in three-straight sets on Saturday afternoon in Fairfield.

The Bulldogs (18-14, 9-4 NEC) took the initial lead in the match, 1-0, but sophomore Grace Richmeyer's (DeSoto, Mo.) kill was the Black and Gold's only advantage of the first set. SHU took the lead off the attacking error by junior Kiley Robbins (Garland, Texas) and the Pioneers didn't look back, taking the first, 25-20, marking the Pioneer's largest of the set.

The home team got out to an early 3-0 lead in the second, before the Bulldogs fought back to tie it off a block from Robbins and Richmeyer. The Bulldogs would go on to tie the set on five occasions until finding their first lead of the second, 10-9, off a Robbins kill. Bryant took their largest lead of the set, 12-10, after a 4-1 run, aided by Robbins and senior Vika Katzen (Kfar Saba, Israel). The NEC's top seed would erase the Bulldogs' effort, taking back the lead, 16-15, off the attacking error by sophomore Kirstyn Sperry (Pheonix, Ariz.). The SHU point was a part of the Pioneers, 12-1 run that helped the team to a 25-16 second set victory.

The Pioneers used their momentum in the third, taking an early 2-0 edge, but the Bulldogs wouldn't fold. Three-straight kills by Sacred Heart's Makayla Dole gave the Pioneers the largest lead of set, 14-7. A Robbins kill ended the hosts' streak and prompted a Bryant three-point run. The Pioneers responded back by stringing together four-straight points, including a service ace that gave SHU an eight-point advantage, 18-10. The top two NEC teams would go on to trade a number of points down the stretch, but the Pioneers' edge proved to be too substantial, as they were able to seal the match victory after winning the third set, 25-18.

Robbins and sophomore Julia Flynn (Pembroke, Mass.) paced the Bulldogs with 10 kills, respectively, while Sperry finished with five kills. Sperry also contributed 12 assists, while Katzen lead the Black and Gold with 19 helpers and 10 digs.

Dole and Sarah Krufka led the match with 16 and 12 kills, respectively, while Liisel Nelis and Maddie Losure each pitched in five. Setter Kiki Robinson led the match with 21 assists, while Lea Lieb finished with 16. Libero Ana Gonzalez matched Katzen's game-high 10 digs.

The Bulldogs will look to rebound tomorrow afternoon in their regular season finale at Fairleigh Dickinson at 3:00 p.m.