KEENE, N.H. – In a match with 22 lead changes and ties, the Eastern Connecticut State University women's volleyball team could not overcome a .029 attack percentage in dropping its Little East Conference opener, 25-15, 25-10, 25-23, at Keene State College Saturday afternoon at Spaulding Gymnasium.
Eastern (5-4) bounced back in a first-ever meeting with Husson University (1-5) to climb back over .500 with a 25-15, 25-9, 25-19 triumph over the Eagles in a non-conference match which featured none of the suspense (only two lead changes) of the Eastern-Keene matchup.
Keene (9-3, 1-0 LEC), which has swept Eastern three times in the last two years – including last year's LEC semifinals –got 13 kills and a .343 attack percentage from Megan Palmer against Eastern and 21 digs from Riley Bunker.
Senior Caryn Sibiskie (Rockfall) led the Warriors with seven kills and a .308 attack percentage, but the rest of the team managed a .000 attack percentage (24 kills and 24 errors). Freshman Anna Barry (Andover) topped Eastern with eight kills and sophomore Alaetra Long (Lincoln, NE) and freshman Madison Bell (Salem) combined for 33 digs and only two errors on 52 serve receives. Junior Mckenzie Maneggia (Andover) had 14 assists and 12 digs.
There were ten lead changes and ties in the first and third sets against Keene, although the Owls were relatively unchallenged in the second set, breaking from two early ties to take command 2-sets-to-none. The Warriors led in the first set, 9-8, on a Keene attack error, but Keene stormed back, reeling off seven straight points to move out to a 15-9 lead. Three Keene kills and three Eastern attack errors sparked that decisive run of six straight points.
Attempting to extend the match in the third set, the Warriors led by a point on five occasions late in the set but could not put away the hosts. A Keene service error allowed Eastern to pull even for the final time, 23-23, but the Owls recorded the go-ahead point and match point on an Eastern service error and a final kill from six-foot junior outside Olivia Mathieu.
Eastern attacked at .260 against Husson – making only one error in the first set. Sophomore Lauren Notholt (Milford) -- second on the team this year in attack percentage -- had a team-high nine kills and attacked at .500. Barry and sophomore Abby Stern (Manchester) each had six kills, with Barry attacking at .636. Six players contributed at least six digs, led by Maneggia (9) and Long (9) and Stern (8). Maneggia had a match-high 19 assists, senior Leah Sopneski (Deep River) 11 and Long a career-high seven aces. Sibiski led both teams with five blocks. As a team, Eastern posted a .951 reception percentage. In two matches, Notholt led Eastern with a .400 attack percentage (11 kills/3 errors) and Long with 26 digs.
Eastern visits defending LEC tournament champion UMass Boston Friday at 7 p.m. in a conference match.