College Park, MD - The SHU women's volleyball team made the most noise in the final day of the Spring Hill Suites at Arundel Mills Invitational, hosted by the University of Maryland. The Pioneers battled back from a 2-1 hole against the host Terrapins to earn a 3-2 victory and prevented a comeback against Yale, triumphing 3-1 over the Bulldogs. Dianis Mercado (Vega Baja, Puerto Rico) and Kimmee Roleder (Pasadena, CA) were key for SHU all weekend as both players notched a double-double in every match of the tournament.
Sacred Heart (8-2) immediatley proved that intimidation would not be a factor as they jumped out a 5-1 advantage in the first set. Roleder went on a tear in the opening frame of the day as the graduate student transfer deposited seven kills. Mercado was just as hot early on, registering five of her match high 18 kills in the first set. However, the tournament host made a late run, winning three straight rallies and fighting off two SHU set points to take a 25-24 lead. Then it was Sacred Heart who fought off two set points before an Alissa Young (La Verne, CA) kill and a Jessica Colberg (Long Beach, CA) service ace ended the first set 29-27 in favor of the Pioneers. Young rounded out the match with eight kills while Colberg, the squad's libero, tallied 17 total digs.
Maryland (4-4) rebounded in the second set and swung at a blistering .522 pace in the frame. The Terrapins also recorded five of their 20 blocks at the net to hold SHU to a negative hitting percentage for the first time this season. The set finished 25-11 as the match leveled at one set all heading into the intermission.
The Pioneers were the first to gain separation in the third set as a 4-1 surge, capped by a Megan Pulone (Diamond Bar, CA) service ace gave SHU a 12-8 edge. Pulone also handed out 17 assists in the match while freshman Alisa Mesa (Long Beach, CA) distributed a team high 29 helpers. The Terrapins came right back to knot it at 13-13 and force Sacred Heart head coach Rob Machan to call timeout. But the moemtnum could not be stopped as Maryland rattled off eight of the next ten points to build a comforatble 21-15 lead. The Pioneers got five of Johanna Ovsenek's (London, Ontario) ten kills in the set but fell, 25-20.
The two sides played an evenly matched fourth set with neither team being able to open a significant advantage. The Pioneers notched two more kills then the Terrapins in the frame but also committed a pair of additional errors as the score was tied late at 23-23. Maryland committed an attacking erorr to give SHU a set point and Mercado immediately capitalzied with a kill to end the fourth at 25-23 for the Pioneers, forcing the match into a fifth and deciding set.
Maryland came out hot in the final stanza, establishing a 3-0 cushion. The Pioneers came firing back and went up 8-6 following back-to-back kills from Mercado and forcing a Terrapin timeout. Mercado proved to be the deciding factor down the stretch as a kill and back-to-back service aces from the Puerto Rico product made it 14-11, giving Sacred Heart three match points. The third time was the charm as Elise Sage (Greenwood Village, CO) hammered home her ninth kill of the contest to end the set, 15-13, and the match, 3-2. The victory is the Pioneers' third against a school from a major conference as SHU already has triumphed over UConn and Rutgers in 2011.
Sacred Heart was the instant aggresor in its final match of the tournament against the Bulldogs. The Pioneers opened up a 15-10 lead in the first set following two kills from Roleder, one from Ovsenek, and a Pulone service ace. Roleder recorded the last two points of the 25-17 victory for SHU with a kill and a block. The 6-2 Pioneer finished the match with 12 kills and 16 digs. However, it was the freshman Young who paced the squad with a season high 13 kills while posting a .276 hitting percentage.
The Pioneers kept rolling in the second set and another 7-2 spurt fueled by Mercado and Roleder made it 17-12. Ashlyn Trimble (Temecula, CA) put a kill to the floor to give SHU a set point and a Bulldog error gave the frame to Sacred Heart, 25-15. Trimble added five kills and two digs on the day as the senior returns to the court more frequently following an injury in the NCAA Tournament last season against Nebraska.
Yale (3-3) earned the early cushion in the third set at 9-5 as a balanced attack began to take advantage of scoring opportunites. The Pioneers closed the gap to just two at 18-16 after a service error but a 5-0 run from the Bulldogs allowed them to begin an attempt at a comeback with a 25-20 third set win.
It appeared that fatiuge may have finally caught up with the Pioneers as they fell behind in their ninth set of the day, and 13th set of the tournament. Sacred Heart found itself in a 20-13 hole and was faced with the potential of playing its second five set match of the afternoon. But the Pioneers rattled off seven consecutive points and forced the Bulldogs to burn through both of their timeouts. The surge featured two blocks from Young and a service ace from Christina Bauch (Trabuco Canyon, CA) that leveled the score line at 20-20.
Yale answered the run with three straight points of its own to push ahead, 23-20. However, Sacred Heart had another comeback in them and claimed the last five points of the match to win, 25-23 and 3-1. The final three points featured two of Sage's 11 kills of the contest and another service ace from Colberg. Colberg had a match high 20 digs versus Yale while Ovsenek was the match's most efficient attacker with 12 kills and a .417 hitting percentage.
Sacred Heart continues its difficult non-conference schedule next weekend as they travel to Michigan State for another tounrmant. The Pioneers will take on the host Spartans as well as Ball State and Virginia Commonwealth.
* Sacred Heart was declared tournament champions following Maryland's victory over Delaware