Fairfield, CT – The Pioneer women's volleyball team was tested for the first time at home this season but came away with a dramatic five set victory Sunday afternoon in a Northeast Conference clash with the Bryant Bulldogs. Kimmee Roleder (Pasadena, CA) registered 25 kills, including four in the final set, and was dominant all afternoon with a .511 hitting percentage. The triumph moves the Pioneers home winning streak to 22 matches, dating back to 2009.
Sacred Heart (11-4, 2-0) had to overcome several slow starts to a set, including the first frame when the Bulldogs built a 6-2 edge. The Pioneers went on a surge that included a pair of Johanna Ovsenek's (London, Ontario) ten total kills of the match to give SHU the lead at 8-7. The rest of the set was all Sacred Heart as the home team ripped 15 kills for a .394 hitting percentage. Dianis Mercado (Vega Baja, Puerto Rico) supplied the final point on one of her 13 kills as SHU routed the Bulldogs in the opening stanza, 25-13.
Bryant (5-11, 0-2 NEC) had their best attacking performance in the second set, tallying 14 kills and swinging at a .400 clip. The Bulldogs built a 9-2 advantage and SHU spent the rest of the set trying to reel in the visitors. Sacred Heart closed the gap to 18-16 on a Roleder service ace, forcing Bryant to take a timeout. The Pioneers gave some ground after the break but got within two again at 23-21 following a kill from Elise Sage (Greenwood Village, CO) and the Bulldogs again called timeout to halt the momentum. Bryant would hold off Sacred Heart down the stretch and even the match at 1-1 by taking the set, 25-22.
The Pioneers would get off the blocks quickly to start the third set following the intermission. Seven different SHU players contributed with points to build an 11-5 cushion. Sacred Heart maintained the advantage throughout the stanza, powering down 14 kills and moving within one set of claiming the match. The frame ended 25-21 as Mercado led all attackers with six kills and the Pioneers posted three blocks.
Both sides were efficient offensively in the fourth set but another fast start from the Bulldogs would eventually prove to be the difference. Bryant's Jazmin Stoner gave the Bulldogs a 7-2 lead with one of her team high 13 kills of the match. SHU fought its way back into the frame and earned a 15-14 edge as Alissa Young (La Verne, CA) rose above the net for a solo block. The Bulldogs rallied late and took six of the final nine points to win the frame 25-22 and force the match into a fifth and deciding set.
Sacred Heart would not let its program best home winning streak slip away quietly, exploding out of the gates to take a 7-2 advantage. The Pioneer defense smothered the Bulldogs as Bryant could not notch a single kill in the set, putting up a -.312 hitting percentage. Sage and Mercado combined for a block to end the match 15-8 in the fifth set as SHU got through the first weekend of the Northeast Conference schedule unscathed.
The Pioneers will put their home winning streak on the line in one of the toughest tests of the season as the BIG EAST's Marquette Golden Eagles enter the Pitt Center for a Thursday night clash.