BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Three Bulldog seniors posted double-doubles and sophomore Erika Ward (Rochester, Mich.) added a career-high 32 digs, surpassing the 1,000 mark for her career, as the Bryant University volleyball team defeated Central Connecticut in five sets Friday to advance to its first Northeast Conference Championship final.
Redshirt-senior Julia Flynn (Pembroke, Mass.) led the Bryant attack with 17 kills and joined seniors Kristin Kingi (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) and Kirstyn Sperry (Phoenix, Ariz.) with double-doubles in the NEC semifinal victory.
Ward's 32 digs made her the first player in program history to reach 1,000 career digs in her sophomore season. Bryant tallied 112 digs as a team – a Division I single-match program record.
Bryant 3, Central Connecticut 2 (21-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-21, 15-11)
Records: Bryant (21-12); Central Connecticut (13-13)
Location: Steinberg Wellness Center (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Coach Garlacy's Comments
"It was a complete team effort that led to a win tonight. So many players stepped up in key moments to help us to a victory. We showed our resiliency to bounce back after dropping the third set, and to execute late in the fifth when Central made a run. Our team is looking forward to the opportunity to do something pretty special Saturday."
How it Happened
- Set 1 – The teams were tied 10 times in the first 24 points of the set before Bryant ran off four straight points to go up 16-12. Central Connecticut would bounce back to even the set and score the final five points of a 25-21 frame.
- Set 2 – Freshman Haley O'Brien (Milton, Mass.) was in on three of Bryant's first four points of the set as the Bulldogs began the frame up 5-0. The Bulldogs trailed 12-10 before tallying the next five points to go ahead 15-12. Bryant led 23-19 on a kill from senior Grace Richmeyer (DeSoto, Mo.) and CCSU answered with the next three points, prompting a Bryant timeout. Kills from Kingi and O'Brien closed out a 25-23 win to even the match.
- Set 3 – The Blue Devils pulled ahead 9-5 with the benefit of three straight Bryant attack errors, leading to a Bulldog timeout. With the set tied at 16, Bryant took a three-point lead on a pair of Blue Devil errors and a kill from freshman Jenna Knight (Scottsdale, Ariz.). Bryant led 23-18 before CCSU stormed back with the final seven points of the set to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
- Set 4 – An ace by Sperry forced a CCSU timeout with Bryant leading 13-9. The Blue Devils would use an 8-2 run to take the lead and held an 18-16 advantage after a replay was ruled on a Bryant challenge. Bryant would take a 22-21 lead on a kill from freshman Maya Popernik (Chicago, Ill.) and close out a 25-21 victory to force a fifth set.
- Set 5 – Bryant jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the set and was up 8-5 as the teams switched sides. The Bulldogs extended their cushion to 13-8 before the Blue Devils scored the next three points to force a Bryant timeout. Knight recorded a kill out of the break to set up match point and Bryant won the match on a CCSU attack error.
- Flynn recorded a team-high 17 kills and matched her career-high with 23 digs.
- Kingi tallied 10 kills and 18 digs, with the latter mark bringing her within 10 of matching the Bryant Division I career digs record of 1,359 set by Debora Magalhaes in 2015.
- Sperry recorded 34 assists, 12 digs and three aces.
- O'Brien chipped in with 11 kills and a career-high eight blocks, while Richmeyer added 10 kills and five blocks.
- Knight hit .368 with nine kills and a career-high six blocks.
- Senior Julia Malet (San Rafael, Calif.) collected 22 assists and nine digs.
- Bryant hit .134 for the match, while Central Connecticut was at .114.
- The Blue Devils outblocked the Bulldogs, 22-13. CCSU's Elise van Hejningen recorded 13 blocks in the defeat.
- The Bulldogs' 21 victories this season match the Division I program mark set last year.
- Bryant improves to 9-17 all-time against Central Connecticut and 8-15 since the move to Division I. The Bulldogs won all three meetings this season.
- The Bulldogs improve to 8-4 this season in five-set matches.
Bryant will face No. 4 seed Sacred Heart Saturday at 3 p.m. in the Northeast Conference Championship final in Brooklyn with a trip to the NCAA tournament on the line.