KEENE, N.H.--The No. 2 seeded Keene State College volleyball team reached the Little East Conference championship game for the second time in three years with a 3-0 (25-16, 25-23, 29-27) win over No. 3 seed Eastern Connecticut State University in a semifinal matchup at Spaulding Gym on Thursday night.
- Keene State: 24-6
- Eastern Conn. State: 18-9
How it Happened
Rachel Lamica led the way with 13 kills while hitting .314 and chipped in nine digs, three solo blocks, and two block assists. Kelly Hunt added seven kills, while Niamh Dodd had six. Dodd added four solo blocks and three block assists. Bailey Wilson had 27 assists and eight digs, while Riley Bunker had 17 digs. Olivia Mathieu and Kait West added nine digs apiece.
The Owls took a 8-4 lead in the first set on Lamica's service ace, but the Warriors responded with a 7-2 run to take an 11-10 lead. Dodd and Hunt teamed up for a block that put the Owls back in front, 12-11, as the Owl finished the set by outscoring ECSU 13-5, including a block by Dodd on Lauren Notholt that gave the Owls the set.
Keene State used another strong start to open the second set, taking a 10-5 lead on a kill by Hunt. A KSC error allowed the Warriors to tie it at 13, and after trading points until the set was tied at 17, Eastern scored three straight for a 20-17 lead. After a Keene State timeout, the Owls tied it at 21 on a Warriors' attacking error, but Jackie Orlowski's ace gave the Warriors a 23-21 lead. Orlowski served the next one into the net, and Keene State netted the next three points, as Dodd had another set-ending block, this one on Notholt, to end the set.
It was the Warriors who got off to a strong start in the third set, taking a 9-4 lead on Alaetra Long's service ace. A kill from Dodd got the Owls back to within 11-10, but Keene State could not get in front, with Balskus and Lydia Niderno combining for a block that gave Eastern a 20-17 lead. Keene State kept clawing back, finally taking a 23-22 lead when Jennifer Severino and Lamica blocked Balskus at the net. Amanda Tourjee's service ace brought the Warriors to set point at 24-23, but the Owls fought back, getting the next two points to reach match point on an error by Eastern. After the Warriors tied it at 26, Eastern had a chance to put the set away on a kill by Orlowski, but another attacking error by the Warriors tied it at 27. Wilson gave the Owls match point with a kill, and Tourjee's setting error gave the Owls a clean sweep on the night.
- Keene State will head to UMass Boston for the LEC title game on Saturday, May 4. The Owls are seeking their first title since 2008, and second overall. Earlier this year, Keene State fell to the Beacons, 3-1 (19-25, 29-27, 21-25, 16-25).
- The Owls have also reached the championship game in 2005, 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2015.
- The 24 wins are the fourth most in a season in school history; the Owls can tie the 2006 and 2007 teams that both won 25 games with a win on Saturday. The record is 29, set in 2008.
- The Owls head to Boston to face the Beacons in an LEC title match, with the winner receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
- The Warriors, who were seeking their first championship since 2007, see their season come to a close.