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Bryant downs Kent State in first five-set match of 2019

Larry Levanti/Northeast Conference
Larry Levanti/Northeast Conference

WEST POINT, N.Y. – Sophomore Maya Popernik (Chicago, Ill.) hit .371 with a career-high 15 kills and was one of three Bulldogs with a double-double as the Bryant University volleyball team battled for a five-set win over Kent State Friday afternoon at the Black Knights Invitational.

Popernik tallied 15 kills and 10 digs for Bryant, which won its third-straight match. Junior Alisi Motu'apuaka (Virginia Beach, Va.) collected 22 assists and 12 digs, while freshman Riley James (Pocasset, Mass.) recorded 12 kills and 11 digs.

Match Information
Bryant 3, Kent State 2 (23-25, 25-22, 25-20, 14-25, 15-13)
Records: Bryant (4-5), Kent State (6-3)
Location: Gillis Field House (West Point, N.Y.) 

Coach Garlacy's Comments
"We finished strong after a slow start to the match. We put ourselves in difficult positions multiple times but were able to recover. Haley was near-perfect and we got double-doubles from Riley, Maya and Alisi. Erika played tremendous defense and as always was our vocal leader. The team continues to learn and grow and this five-set win shows the heart and character of this team."

How It Happened

  • Set 1 – Kent State jumped out to an 11-1 lead, but Bryant would battle back, using a 21-10 stretch to take the lead at 22-21. Sophomore Haley O'Brien (Milton, Mass.) tallied three kills during the run. The Golden Flashes scored four of the final five points of the set to close out the 25-23 victory.
  • Set 2 – The Bulldogs were in danger of a 2-0 deficit, trailing 22-19 in the set, before storming back for the final six points to win the set. O'Brien was in on each of the final three with two kills before teaming up with sophomore Jenna Knight (Scottsdale, Ariz.) for a block on set point to even the match.
  • Set 3 – Trailing 14-13, Bryant responded with five straight, getting kills from James, Motu'apuaka and freshman Alysa Wright (Wayne, Pa.). Seven Bulldogs had a kill in the 25-20 set.
  • Set 4 – The Golden Flashes opened the set on an 8-1 run and closed it with a 7-2 stretch to force a decisive fifth set.
  • Set 5 – The Bulldogs trailed 4-1 to begin the final set before taking a 6-5 lead on a block from James and O'Brien. Bryant would commit three straight errors to fall behind 13-12 but responded with the final three points, including a kill from sophomore Caroline Kennedy (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) to bring the teams to match point before Motu'apuaka closed out the victory.

Stats/Notes

  • Popernik's career-high 15 kills were on a .371 hitting percentage with just two errors (15-2-35). The sophomore from Chicago added 10 digs and three blocks.
  • James topped Tuesday's career-high of 10 kills with 12 in Friday's victory. The freshman matched another career-high from Tuesday with 11 digs.
  • O'Brien recorded seven kills on an errorless .417 hitting percentage (7-0-17) and added four blocks.
  • Redshirt-junior Sydney Gorski (Chagrin Falls, Ohio) chipped in with eight kills and matched a career-high with five blocks against the opponent from her home state.
  • Motu'apuaka's 22 assists were two shy of her career-best in the 2017 NEC Semifinals.
  • The victory is Bryant's second over a MAC opponent. The Bulldogs defeated Central Michigan in five sets in last year's opening weekend in Chicago.
  • Bryant improves to 1-0 all-time against Kent State.
  • The match was Bryant's first five-setter of the year. The Bulldogs were 8-5 in five-set matches in 2018.

Up Next
Bryant plays two matches Saturday at the Black Knights Invitational, as the Bulldogs face Binghamton at 1:30 p.m. and Army West Point at 5 p.m. Bryant's match vs. Army West Point can be seen on Patriot League Network.

Tickets for the 2019 season, including the Bulldogs' next home match Sept. 17 vs. Brown, are available HERE.

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