WILLIMANTIC, Conn. -- The Eastern Connecticut State University women's volleyball team attacked in negative digits in the first set and never recovered in being swept by Keene State College in the Little East Conference opener for both teams Saturday afternoon at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium. Scores were 25-10, 25-18, 25-17.
Eastern (6-4, 0-1 LEC) had won its last six sets against Keene State (11-0, 1-0 LEC) dating back to last season when it won in five in last year's regular-season finale, then swept the Owls in the opening round of the LEC tournament. Saturday, Keene attacked at .295 by committing only three attack errors in the match and attacking at a combined .324 over the first two sets.
In a non-conference match later Saturday, Eastern lost to Salve Regina University for the first time in the last three meetings, dropping straight sets by scores of 25-17, 25-19, 25-16.
After opening the season by winning their first 12 sets and going on to six opening triumphs, the Warriors have dropped their last 12 in losing four straight.
Playing without their kill leader and starting middle blocker, Eastern led only twice (both by a point) in three sets against Keene, both leads coming in the third set. In the third set, freshman Abby Stern's (Manchester) kill pushed the Warriors ahead, 9-8, and block assists from Lydia Niderno (Willington) and freshman Lauren Notholt (Milford) made it 16-15. An Eastern service error gave the ball back to Keene in a tie game, and an Eastern attack error and kill Rachel Lamica put the Owls up for good, 18-16.
In six sets on the day, Eastern attacked at .017, while Keene and Salve combined on a .249 attack percentage.
Stern, a two-time LEC Rookie-of-the-Week, led Eastern with 16 kills, 24 digs and five service aces and received at .933 on a team-high 45 chances. Senior Carly Balskus (Hebron) chipped in 13 kills and 18 digs, with sophomore Mckenzie Maneggia (Andover) putting up 22 assists and digging 19 balls and serving three aces, junior Leah Sopneski (Deep River) adding 11 assists. Senior co-captain Michelle Valliere (Lebanon) handled 44 receptions with only four errors (.909) and added 18 digs.
Saturday, Eastern visits Plymouth State University in a conference match at noon and also faces Maine-Presque Isle in a non-conference match at Plymouth at 2 p.m.