KEENE, N.H. - The Keene State College volleyball team rallied from a 21-8 deficit in the third set to polish off a 3-0 (25-13, 25-15, 27-25) sweep of UMass-Dartmouth in Little East Conference action Saturday afternoon. The Owls also sprinted past Suffolk University by the same score, winning sets 25-19, 25-15 and 25-13, in the day's second match.
- Keene State: 19-7, 4-2 LEC
- UMass-Dartmouth: 7-14, 2-4 LEC
- Suffolk: 16-8
How It Happened - UMass-Dartmouth
KSC was paced to the conference victory by Ali McLoughlin, who racked up 13 kills, three aces and two digs. Megan Palmer and Emilyann Ashford each had seven spikes, while Bailey Wilson stuffed the statsheet once again with 33 assists, 16 digs and two kills. Nicole Silverman had nine kills and 10 digs for UMD, but the Corsairs were outhit .259 to .062.
The Owls cruised through the opening two sets, never trailing in the process. Kills by Elizabeth Johnson and Kelly Hunt sandwiched an ace by McLoughlin early in the first set, propelling KSC to a 9-3 edge. UMass-Dartmouth got within three very briefly, but as soon as they did, KSC scored the next five, finishing with two Ashford kills, for a 15-7 edge. The visitors never got closer than six after that, and the Owls went up double digits (20-10) after a UMD attack error, closing the frame with ease.
The second set was not much different, as a run of five straight points that culminated with McLoughlin's ace and Palmer's kill put Keene State up 10-4. The Corsairs posted six of the next ten points to hang around, staying within four, but the Owls shut the door with an 8-3 burst to go up 22-13. Hunt had a pair of kills and Johnson an ace to finish that run. KSC had no issues after that, with Hunt and Ashford's spikes bringing up set point (24-15) before Mallory Singer's attack error put the hosts up 2-0 in the match.
The third frame was a vastly different story. UMass-Dartmouth raced out to an 11-3 advantage after Jordan Rittberger served her team into eight straight points, and the Corsairs continued to pile on going up 18-5 on Nora Craft's ace. Spikes by Tashneal Africa and Silverman continued to maintain a 13-point gap (21-8) and it appeared the match was well on its way to a fourth set. Keene State had other ideas. The Owls roared back, racking up seven kills, one ace and a team block as part of a huge 12-1 run that suddenly made it 22-20. A pair of Corsair points seemed as though they might turn aside KSC's comeback bid, but that was not the case. McLoughlin's ace made it 24-22 before two UMD errors forced extra points and marked the first tie since it was 3-3. Silverman again gave the visitors a chance to close out the frame after her kill made it 25-24, but a kill by Hunt and a pair of UMass-Dartmouth errors concluded an improbable comeback that polished off an Owl sweep.
How It Happened - Suffolk
KSC had little trouble in the day's second match, as they racked up 11 service aces as a team and took out the Rams by holding them to .047 hitting. McLoughlin had seven kills, while Ashford added six kills, four digs and three block assists. Mathieu had 17 more digs and Wilson 18 assists and two kills. The Owls piled up seven total blocks. Kayla Barbera had 10 spikes and eight digs for Suffolk.
Two consecutive aces from Palmer began the match, and Keene State set the tone right away with a 10-2 burst out of the gates. The Rams did slowly chip away, getting to within 13-10 and, later, 17-16, but Ashford and Palmer shined in a quick 4-0 spurt that raised the lead back to five. Leading 21-19 after Suffolk answered with three, the Owls took the upper hand after a pair of Mathieu aces wrapped up a 25-19 set win.
A late uprising helped Keene State run away with the second frame. Trailing 11-9, the home team scored seven of the next ten to go up 16-14 and held Suffolk to just one more point after that. Palmer and Ashford combined for a block on Barbera that opened up a 21-15 edge, and Palmer helped close it out from there, as KSC scored the next four and wrapped up the set on a 16-4 surge overall.
The third set proved to be a runaway, with the Rams never leading. Hannah Hoffmaster and McLoughlin teamed up twice for blocks to help the Owls out to a 6-1 lead, and KSC was never ahead by less than five after that. Ahead 11-6, the Owls removed any doubt by going on a 9-2 run that finished with a spike from Hoffmaster and yet one more block from her and McLoughlin, making it 20-8.
- Mathieu is now ninth on Keene State's all-time digs list with 1,172. She is just six away from sole possession of eighth and could move into the top five before the season is over.
- Keene State has won 15 straight matches against UMass-Dartmouth.
- The Owls stay home to take on Norwich University on Tuesday, October 22 at 6:00 pm.
- UMass-Dartmouth travels to Emmanuel College (Mass.) on Thursday, October 24 at 7:00 pm.
- Suffolk hosts Regis College (Mass.) in GNAC action Wednesday, October 23. First serve is at 7:00 pm.