Pioneers Drop Five-Set Match Against Central Connecticut

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Despite having five players in double-figure kills, the Sacred Heart volleyball team fell in five sets 3-2 (25-23, 20-25, 25-7, 14-25, 9-15) to the Central Connecticut Blue Devils Saturday night at the William H. Pitt Center.

Senior outside hitter Dianis Mercado (Vega Baja, P.R.) led all players in the match with 15 kills and 20 digs. Sarah Krufka (Santa Margaria, Calif.) and Jene Lee (San Dimas, Calif.) each had 13 kills. Lee his .346 for the match. Marie Zimmerman (Denver, Colo.) added 12 kills as Allison Riggs (Anaheim, Calif.) had 11 kills. Kiki Robinson (Bakersfield, Calif.) had 56 assists.

Sacred Heart (13-14, 7-4 NEC) led early in the first set, using a 6-1 run to take a 12-8 lead. Central Connecticut (18-7, 9-2) responded with a 5-1 run of their own to tie the set 13-13. The Pioneers took the lead on a Zimmerman kill, then ran out to a 19-15 lead on an Ana Gonzalez (Guaynabo, P.R.) ace. The Blue Devils cut the lead to one twice late in the set, but Zimmerman gave Sacred Heart the first set with a kill to make the score 25-23.

The two sides traded points to open the second set, with Central Connecticut using a pair of Rachel Dunlap blocks to go up 11-8. The Blue Devils extended their lead to five, 16-11, on a block and an ace by Cassidy Stankowski. A Mercado kill stemmed the tide, with three straight kills from Riggs, Lee, and Krufka getting Sacred Heart within two at 18-16 and forcing a Central Connecticut timeout. The Pioneers were within one at 21-20 before an attack error and three straight Blue Devil points gave Central Connecticut the set 25-20 and tied the match at a set apiece.

Sacred Heart ran out to a 12-1 lead to start the third set. Krufka had two kills in the run as Karly Shockey (Chino Hills, Calif.) had back-to-back aces. The Pioneers extended the lead to 14 at 17-3 on another Gonzalez ace. Central Connecticut got as close as 12 at 19-7 before Sacred Heart closed out the set on a 6-0 run to win the set 25-7. Sacred Heart hit .435 in the third as Central Connecticut was held to a -.250.

The Blue Devils returned the favor in the fourth set. Central Connecticut opened the frame on a 12-3 run, taking six straight points to end the spurt. Central Connecticut grew its lead to 12 at 16-4 on a Veronika Ban ace. Rachel Fish had three straight service aces late in the set as the Blue Devils took the fourth 25-14 to force a deciding fifth set.

Central Connecticut jumped out to a 4-2 lead in the fifth, using a pair of Rachel Dunlap blocks. The two teams then traded points until 6-3, when the Pioneers cut the deficit to one on a Lee kill and a block by Lee and Mercado. The Blue Devils continued to trade points until 9-8 when Makenna Lommori put down back-to-back kills to give Central Connecticut an 11-8 lead, prompting a Sacred Heart timeout. Central Connecticut then ran off three straight points to take a 14-8 lead. The Pioneers saved one match point on a Riggs kill, but Dunlap and Ban combined for a block to give the Blue Devils the fifth set 15-9 and the match 3-2.

Sacred Heart hit .402 for the match to Central Connecticut's .175. The Blue Devils, however, had 21 blocks to the Pioneers' three. Dunlap was in on 14 blocks as Ban added 10. Ban also led Central Connecticut with nine kills.

The Pioneers wrap up their home slate on Sunday, Nov. 10 with a 1 p.m. game against Bryant on Senior Day.