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Bryant faces Sacred Heart Saturday for NEC title

Northeast Conference/Larry Levanti
Northeast Conference/Larry Levanti

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – The Bryant University volleyball team plays for the Northeast Conference Championship for the first time Saturday when the No. 2 seed Bulldogs take on No. 4 seed Sacred Heart on the campus of LIU Brooklyn.

With a victory Saturday, Bryant would earn a bid to the NCAA tournament for the first time in the Bulldogs' Division I era. Bryant became postseason eligible in 2012.

The Particulars
 Sacred Heart
Match Time: Saturday – 3 p.m.
Location: Steinberg Wellness Center (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Links: NEC Front Row | Live Stats 

Series vs. Sacred Heart
The Bulldogs are 25-17 all-time against the Pioneers and 7-15 in the Division I era. 

The teams split the regular season series with the road team emerging victorious in both meetings. Sophomore Erika Ward (Rochester, Mich.) recorded 28 digs to lead three Bulldogs with 20 or more. Seniors Kristin Kingi (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) and Julia Flynn (Pembroke, Mass.) both posted double-doubles with 20+ digs each.

Saturday's match is the first between the teams in postseason play.

Bulldog Notes and Notables

  • Bryant is 21-12 overall and earned the No. 2 seed in the NEC tournament with a 10-4 record in conference play.
  • Bryant advanced to Saturday's final with a five-set win over No. 3 seed Central Connecticut Friday.
  • The Bulldogs' 21 wins in 2018 match last season for the most in a single season in the Division I era.
  • Bryant's senior class has won 80 matches in their four years in Black and Gold, the most of any class in the Division I era.
  • Ward recorded a career-high 32 digs in Friday's win, making her the first player in program history to reach 1,000 career digs as a sophomore.
  • Kingi enters the weekend 10 digs away from breaking Bryant's Division I career digs record of 1,359 set by Debora Magalhaes in 2015.
  • The Bryant freshman class has combined for 33 performances of 10 or more kills this season, including 24 from Caroline Kennedy (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.).
  • Freshmen Haley O'Brien (Milton, Mass.) and Jenna Knight (Scottsdale, Ariz.) recorded career-highs in blocks Friday with eight and six, respectively.
  • The Bulldogs feature three of the top nine players in the NEC in kills per set entering the weekend: Flynn (3.21), Kennedy (3.03) and Kingi (2.65).
  • Head coach Theresa Garlacy won her 500th career match in the Sept. 8 sweep of Coppin State. Garlacy is now at 515 career wins entering the weekend.

A Bit About Sacred Heart
The Pioneers are 17-9 on the year after a sweep of No. 1 seed LIU Brooklyn in Friday's first semifinal. NEC Setter and Rookie of the Year Sarah Ciszek had 40 assists in the three-set win, while Alix Polk had a team-high 14 kills. 

Liisel Nelis leads Sacred Heart with 3.82 kills per set. Ciszek leads the Pioneers in hitting percentage (.336) and assists per set (9.27). Emma Smallcomb's 3.94 digs per set pace the Pioneer defense.

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