Loretto, PA - For the second straight day the SHU women's volleyball team suffered a 3-2 defeat as the Red Flash downed the Pioneers in five sets Sunday afternoon. Elise Sage (Greenwood Village, CO) put in 18 kills and swung at a .421 clip to lead Sacred Heart but Saint Francis (PA) had four players post double-digit kills to pick up the victory. The Pioneers drop back-to-back conference games on their trip to Pennsylvania to snap a 20 match winning streak as well as falling into a first-place tie in the Northeast Conference standings.
Saint Francis (PA) (8-19, 6-8 NEC) jumped on the Pioneers early and built an early 8-3 cushion in the opening frame. The Pioneers closed the gap and back-to-back service aces from Courtney Kidd-Kadlubek (Santa Barbara, CA) put SHU within one at 14-13. Kidd-Kadlubek, who ranked 7th in the NCAA in helpers entering the week, finished the afternoon with a match-high 43 assists. The Red Flash put together three straight points to pull ahead 23-19 late in the set. Lauren Wingard used one of her team best 12 kills to end the set 25-21 and give her team a 1-0 advantage.
Sacred Heart (25-6, 12-2 NEC) rallied in the middle of the second set with five straight points to take an 18-11 lead, the last coming on a kill from Dianis Mercado (Vega Baja, Puerto Rico). Mercado finished the match with 14 kills and a .179 attack percentage. SHU continued to control the set and Sage ended it at 25-16 to even the match at one set a piece.
The third set finished with the same score as the second as Sacred Heart controlled the action and held the Red Flash to just a .069 hitting mark. Another mid-set streak put the Pioneers up 21-13 as Mercado posted five kills in the middle stanza. A Saint Francis (PA) attack error ended the set and put SHU within a game of picking up the victory.
The two sides battled closely throughout the fourth set but Maile Hetherington (Thousand Oaks, CA) kill gave the Pioneers a match point at 24-23 and forced a SFPA timeout. Amanda Zahumensky kept her team alive by putting the ball on the floor with one of her five kills. Lindsay Molloy put the Red Flash up 25-24 to earn a set point but Sage leveled the match at 25 all with a kill of her own. A SHU service error and another Molloy kill ended the set 27-25 to even the match at 2-2 and swing the momentum in favor of Saint Francis (PA).
The Pioneers jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the final set but the Red Flash ran off five straight to regain control of the match. Another surge gave SFPA a 10-5 lead that would ultimately prove to be too deep a hole for SHU. The Pioneers made back-to-back attacking errors to drop the final set 15-7 and fell in five sets for the second consecuctive match.
The SHU women's volleyball team returns to action on Wednesday for a 7:00 pm showdown in New Britain, CT against Central Connecticut State.