Fairfield, CT – The SHU women's volleyball team defeated first-place Long Island, 3-2, Sunday afternoon to deadlock the two teams at the top of the Northeast Conference standings. Kimmee Roleder (Pasadena, CA), Dianis Mercado (Vega Baja, Puerto Rico), and Alisa Mesa (Long Beach, CA) all recorded double-doubles in the win. Before the match, the Pioneers honored its three graduating seniors: Jessica Colberg (Long Beach, CA), Ashlyn Trimble (Temecula, CA), and Maile Hetherington (Thousand Oaks, CA).
Long Island (18-12, 12-2 NEC) dominated the opening set, holding the Pioneers to a -.091 hitting percentage. The Blackbird defense had a superb afternoon, recording 24.5 total blocks, including a program record 19 from Ashley Rice. LIU used a 12-3 surge in the middle of the frame and held onto the margin to claim the opening set, 25-12.
Sacred Heart (22-7, 12-2 NEC) answered back in the second set, storming out to a 7-1 cushion. The Pioneers would hammer 18 kills in the frame, four coming from Elise Sage (Greenwood Village, CO) who would finish the afternoon with 12 kills and a match high .367 hitting percentage. The Blackbirds trimmed the deficit to two at 12-10 on a Hannah Gibeau kill, who paced the field with 21 kills for the match. LIU got a block on the next point but SHU rattled off four straight to regain momentum and eventually evened the match 1-1 with a 25-19 set two triumph.
Both offenses tallied its largest kill total of the match in the third set, SHU posted 22 kills in the frame compared to 14 for the Blackbirds. Roleder added nine kills and four digs of her 19 kill, 20 dig performance in the crucial set. The Pioneers escaped a Long Island set point chance at 24-23 following a service error. The Blackbirds then fought off two SHU set points before Roleder gave the Pioneers a third try with a kill to make it 27-26. The Pioneer graduate student then ripped a service that ended the set, 2-1.
The Blackbird offense's efficiency as well as relentless block proved to be the difference in the fourth set. Long Island jumped to a 7-0 lead on the strength of five blocks, including four straight to open the set. Sacred Heart closed to within two points at 11-9 following back-to-back kills from Johanna Ovsenek (London, Ontario). The Blackbirds pulled away late, making just two errors all game, and forced the match into a fifth and deciding set by taking the fourth, 25-17.
The Pioneers rallied from a 7-5 deficit in the fifth set and claimed five straight points, two on Alissa Young (La Verne, CA) kills, to earn a 10-7 advantage. Sacred Heart found itself up 13-12 when Ovsenek and Mercado, who finished with 11 and 16 kills, respectively, went back-to-back to end the set in favor of SHU, 15-12, and secure the five-set victory.
Colberg and Trimble both notched 15 digs in their senior day performance. Mercado rounded out her double-double with 13 digs. Mesa dished out a match high 52 assists to go along with 10 digs.
The Pioneers can clinch a share of the Northeast Conference regular season title by winning its final two remaining home games. The result of the tiebreaker if Sacred Heart and Long Island finish tied in the NEC standings is still to be determined as the remainder of the NEC rankings will need to be determined first. The Pioneers play Tuesday at Columbia before heading to western Pennsylvania to complete the NEC schedule against Saint Francis (PA) and Robert Morris.