WEST HARTFORD, Conn. - The University of Saint Joseph volleyball team opened up the 2017 season at home on Saturday with a tri-match inside the O'Connell Center. The Blue Jays suffered a pair of losses falling 3-1 in the first match to the Mount Holyoke College Lyons and then dropped the second match also by a 3-1 count to the UMass Dartmouth Corsairs. The losses drop the Blue Jays to 0-2 on the young season and they will look to rebound when they are back in action next on Thursday, Sept. 7 at Bay Path at 7 p.m.
In the opening match against the Mount Holyoke College Lyons, neither team built more than a three-point lead in the first set. Knotted up at 26-all, USJ capitalized on two MHC errors to go up 1-0 and take the early lead in the match. The Lyons bounced back in the second set, getting out to a 23-15 lead after a kill by junior outside hitter Isabell Linde (Red Bank, N.J.). USJ scored back-to-back points, but the Lyons took the set 25-17 to tie the match at 1-1.
After playing to a 10-10 tie in the third frame, the Blue Jays gained momentum with five straight points backed by two service aces from freshman libero Janell Molina (Honolulu, Hawaii). Coming back from a 15-10 deficit, Mount Holyoke stormed back to take the advantage and won the set 25-18. Four straight USJ errors and a final kill from junior middle hitter Jamesa Allen (Orlando, Fla.) propelled the visitors to go up 2-1 in the match.
Heading into the eventual deciding set, the Lyons went down 3-1 after an attack error, but a kill from junior outside hitter Joy Maran (Santa Fe, N.M.) gave Mount Holyoke the lead which they would not relinquish. The Blue Jays kept things tight throughout trailing by just two (22-20) late, but back-to-back attacking errors and the seventh kill of the match from Allen sealed the 3-1 victory.
For the Blue Jays, junior outside hitter Carly Ruzbasan (Torrington, Conn.) and Jasmine Buckley (Wappingers Falls, N.Y.) led their squad with 19 and 15 kills respectively, while junior setter Brenna Miller (McCleary, WA) had a game-high 36 assists. Defensively, Molina posted a game-high 11 digs and also recorded a game-high four service aces in her collegiate debut.
For the Lyons, sophomore middle hitter Sasha Simine (Kitchener, Ont.) led the squad with 16 kills to go along with six total blocks. Both Linde and Allen each chipped in with seven kills, while freshman setter Brayden Walden (McKinney, Texas) led the team with 17 assists.
In the second match of the day for the Blue Jays, UMass Dartmouth downed USJ in four sets winning 25-16, 24-26, 25-22, 25-12. Both teams kept things close in the opening set, but a huge 7-0 run by the Corsairs late sparked the visitors to a 23-14 lead and they would hold on to take the early 1-0 lead. Junior outside hitter Amanda LaCroix (East Freetown, Mass.) fueled the run with a pair of kills over the span.
The second set featured a back-and-forth affair throughout. Trailing 22-20, the Blue Jays rattled of four consecutive points to storm back and take a 24-22 edge highlighted by two kills from Buckley and a apir of service aces from freshman Carlie Gonzalez (Los Fresnos, Texas). UMD would score the next two points to knot the game at 24-all, but USJ closed out the set after a service error and service ace from Buckley to tie things up 1-1.
USJ carried the momentum over into the beginning of the third set and raced out to an early 10-3 lead, but the Corsairs would fight back to tie things up at 20-all. Both teams would trade the next four points to make it 22-22 and then UMD wrapped up the set with a 3-0 run punctuated by a set-winning service ace from sophomore Jordan Rittberger (Huntington, N.Y.) to go up 2-1. The visitors used the comeback to swing the momentum and took it over into what would be the fourth and deciding set. They controlled the pace of play throughout building a 16-5 lead and never looked back to take the final set 25-12 and match 3-1.
Buckley and Ruzbasan once again paced the Blue Jays offense in the second match finishing with nine kills each and Miller facilitated with a team-high 24 assists. Defensively, Buckley registered a team-best 12 digs, while Miller and junior Torrie Epps (Windsor, Conn.) chipped in with a pair of block assists respectively. Buckley also recorded four service aces for USJ.
For UMass Dartmouth, LaCroix swung to a game-high 12 kills and Rittberger ran the offense with a game-high 29 assists to lead the way for the Corsairs. Sophomore Jillian Sykora (Waterford, Conn.) posted a game-high 15 digs.
The Blue Jays are back in action next on Thursday, Sept. 7 on the road at Bay Path at 7 p.m.