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Bryant hosts Merrimack, Sacred Heart this weekend

Photo by DSPics.com
Photo by DSPics.com

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The Bryant University volleyball team continues a five-match homestand when Merrimack and Sacred Heart visit the Chace Athletic Center Friday and Saturday.

The Bulldogs enter the weekend 4-1 in the NEC and in third place in the conference behind a pair of 3-0 teams (Long Island and Robert Morris.)

The Particulars
Opponent:
 Merrimack
Match Time: Friday – 6 p.m.
Location: Chace Athletic Center (Smithfield, R.I.)
Tickets: Friday
Watch: NEC Front Row
Live Stats: Presto Sports
All-Time Series: Bryant leads, 36-1 (1-0 D1) 

Opponent: Sacred Heart
Match Time: Saturday – 6 p.m.
Location: Chace Athletic Center (Smithfield, R.I.)
Tickets: Saturday
Watch: NEC Front Row
Live Stats: Presto Sports
All-Time Series: Bryant leads, 26-17 (Sacred Heart leads D1 series, 15-8) 

LAST TIME OUT: BRYANT 3, SAINT FRANCIS U 0
Bryant hit .427 as a team – its third-highest hitting percentage in a single match in the program's Division I era – in a Saturday sweep of Saint Francis U. 

Sophomore Caroline Kennedy (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) hit .733 (11-0-15) in the victory, while sophomore Haley O'Brien (Milton, Mass.) added nine kills on a .615 hitting percentage (9-1-13).

ABOUT THE WARRIORS
Merrimack is 1-10 on the year, 0-9 against Division I competition and 0-4 in the NEC. The Warriors fell in three sets to Central Connecticut last Friday.

Catherine Flaherty leads qualifying players with 2.42 kills per set, while Taelyr Czech's 3.20 digs per set pace the Warriors.

ABOUT THE PIONEERS
Sacred Heart is 6-10 on the year and sits fifth in the NEC entering the weekend with a 2-2 mark in conference play. The Pioneers swept Saint Francis U and lost in four to Robert Morris last weekend. 

Liisel Nelis leads the Pioneers with 2.91 kills per set and is second on the team with 3.11 digs per set. Teams have recorded 2.47 blocks per set against Sacred Heart this season, while the Pioneers have averaged 1.39.

The meeting between the Bulldogs and Pioneers will be the first since November 17 in Brooklyn, when Bryant defeated Sacred Heart in three sets to capture its first Northeast Conference title.

HITTING A HIGH NOTE
Bryant's .427 hitting percentage in Saturday's sweep of Saint Francis U was its third-highest mark in the program's Division I era and best since 2008. The Bulldogs, who hit .372 in last week's win at Merrimack, have recorded their two highest hitting percentages in the last three seasons over their last three matches. 

CAROLING IN OCTOBER
Kennedy is off to a stellar start in the month of October, hitting .532 with 3.22 kills per set and just four attack errors over three matches. 

The sophomore, who will be taking over the @NCAAVolleyball Instagram Saturday, has hit .430 over her last six matches with a percentage of .571 or better in four of the six.

WARD-WINNING PERFORMANCE
Junior Erika Ward (Rochester, Mich.) brought her career dig total to 1,239 with her efforts last weekend. The junior from Michigan passed Kirstyn Sperry in September for third in Bryant's Division I era in career digs and enters the weekend 136 back of Kristin Kingi's program record. 

SETTING THE STAGE FOR SUCCESS
Junior Alisi Motu'apuaka (Virginia Beach, Va.) notched a career-best 38 assists in the Sept. 28 win over St. Francis Brooklyn before helping set Bryant to team hitting percentages of .372 and .427 over the team's last three matches. Motu'apuaka was named to the all-tournament team in two of Bryant's four non-conference weekend invitationals. 

RILEY'S RECORD DAY
Freshman Riley James (Pocasset, Mass.) hit .468 with 24 kills in the Sept. 28 win over St. Francis Brooklyn, giving the freshman from Massachusetts the Bryant Division I record for kills by a freshman in a single match. 

20=10+10
James has recorded five double-doubles in her freshman season after the 24-kill, 12-dig performance Saturday. The freshman has added double-doubles against Providence, Kent State, Brown and Rhode Island this season. 

UNDERCLASSMEN LEADING THE ATTACK
Bryant has seen 90.2% of its kills come from its sophomores and freshmen in 2019. The Bryant sophomores, led by Kennedy (2.52 per set) have contributed 47.3%, while the freshmen, with James pacing the group (2.58 per set) have collected 42.9%. 

CROSS-SOUND SUCCESS
Bryant's freshman duo from Long Island has made an immediate impact, as Emma McGovern (Long Beach, N.Y.) ranks third on the Bulldogs in kills and digs per set, while Mia Cergol (East Northport, N.Y.) has been responsible for 36.5% of Bryant's assists on the year. 

McGovern was named Molten/NEC Rookie of the Week for her efforts in each of the first two weeks of 2019, becoming the third Bulldog in the last three seasons to earn a conference rookie of the week honor (Caroline Kennedy, Erika Ward.)

UP NEXT: CENTRAL CONNECTICUT
Bryant closes out a five-match homestand when the Bulldogs host Central Connecticut Tuesday at 7 p.m. in their final midweek contest of 2019. Tickets for Tuesday's match and all 2019 home contests are available by clicking HERE

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