Pioneers Downed by Rival Blackbirds in Five Sets

Fairfield, Conn.—Three Pioneers hit over .300 as the Sacred Heart Women's Volleyball Team dropped the first match of conference play to rival LIU Brooklyn in five sets. Alissa Young (La Verne, Calif.) led SHU with 18 kills in the match.

Despite the Blackbirds coming out strong, the Pioneers tied the set at six and rolled on to take the lead in the first set on Young's six-point service run. After exchanging points, Ashley Rice's kill sent LIU's Vera Djuric on a five-point service run which tied the game at 13 and gave he Blackbirds back the lead. Dianis Mercado's (Vega Baja, PR) run tied the score once more at 21, but LIU broke the tie going on a 4-1 streak to win the set. Senior Johanna Ovsenek (London, On.) led the set, hitting .571 with four kills on seven attempts.

The opening point of the second set gave SHU its only lead of the set at 1-0. The Blackbirds offense continued to be very efficient with a .375 hitting percentage for the set.  The Pioneers continued to fight hard and managed to tie the set five times before a five-point service run from LIU's Anika Foit turned the close 12-11 score into a 17-11 deficit for the Pioneers. Despite a strong four-kill effort from Elise Sage (Greenwood Village, Colo.), playing her first match after coming off an injury, the Blackbirds would hold onto the lead as the set ended 25-17.   

The third set was a strong offensive effort by Sacred Heart, with the Pioneers registering 17 kills to LIU's 10. Sacred Heart led early with strong serving from Sage and Young to force an LIU timeout at 7-3. The Blackbirds slowly chipped away at the Pioneer's lead to level the set at 15-15. The rest of the set proved to be a close battle as LIU took a small lead with Sacred Heart fighting to tie the set five times. With the score level at 23-23, Ovsenek and freshman Allison Riggs (Anaheim, Calif.) combined for the set's only stuff block to earn set point for the Pioneers. A ball handling error on LIU ended the set 25-23.

The Pioneers played their best volleyball of the night, and possibly of the season, with four players hitting over .400 for the set. This equated to an astounding 20 kills with just four errors. Quarterbacking this offensive effort was sophomore setter Alisa Mesa (Long Beach, Calif.), who recorded 13 assists and a near .500 assist percentage while also contributing a team-high nine digs.  As the fourth set got underway, strong serving by the Blackbirds allowed them to climb to an early 10-6 lead forcing a Sacred Heart timeout. A string of Pioneer kills combined with several hitting errors by LIU forced Head Coach Kyle Robinson to call a timeout at 14-13. Coming out of the timeout, freshman Karly Shockey (Chino Hills, Calif.) served five straight points to give Sacred Heart the lead. LIU could not regain the lead as Sacred Heart went on to tie the match with a fourth set victory 25-21.

The Pioneers offensive machine ran out of steam in the final set, as they were out-killed by the Blackbirds 10-5.  LIU led at the switch with the score 8-3. A Sacred Heart timeout could not break the Blackbird momentum, as LIU battled to a 14-6 lead. Sacred Heart continued to fight hard, running off four straight points to force an LIU timeout at 14-10. The run would be stunted as a final Blackbird kill ended a hard-fought match.

The Pioneers look for their first conference win Sunday against St. Francis (NY).