September 7, 2013

Pioneers Nab Two Wins on Second Day of SHU Invitational

FAIRFIELD, CONN. (September 7, 2013)—The Sacred Heart women's volleyball team picked up a pair of wins on the second day of the SHU Hampton Inn Invitational, including a nail-biter five-set match against Manhattan. Senior Dianis Mercado (Vega Baja, Calif.) posted the team best 29 kills on the day, recording 20 in the win over Manhattan where she hit .348. Rookie Sarah Krufka (Ranch Santa Margarita, Calif.) proved to be an offensive force to be reckoned with Saturday totaling 25 kills for the day.

The Pioneers took down UMES in four sets to win their first match of the tournament.  Allison Riggs (Anaheim, Calif.) cashed in10 kills to lead the match while hitting .292. Freshman libero Ana Gonzalez (Guaynabo, Puerto Rico) collected 16 digs throughout the match, while Mercado was right behind her with 15.

Thanks to Mercado's strong serving, the Pioneers took an early lead in the first set, but the Hawks fought their way back to tie the set at 14. After exchanging several points, Katie Direnzo (Shelton, Conn.) strung together a four-point service run to give SHU the boost they need to claim the set 25-22.

The Pioneers dominated the second set. After opening with Kiki Robinson's (Bakersfield, Calif.) four-point service run, they never relinquished the lead and cruised to a 25-17 win.

The third set proved tougher for Sacred Heart, who played close with UMES in the beginning, but could not recover after Haley Robinson's run gave the Hawks the lead 7-6. The Pioneers did manage to knot the game at 19, but a service error put the score back in UMES's favor as the Hawks went on to win their only set of the match 25-23.

The score tied seven times in the fourth set before a kill by Jene Lee (San Dimas, Calif.) broke the 16-16 tie giving SHU the advantage it needed to runaway with the set on Gonzalez's serving 25-19.

The second match of the day verse Manhattan proved to be a closely fought contest. It was the only match of the tournament that went all five sets. Dianis Mercado led all players in the match with 20 kills on .348 hitting.

During the first set neither team was able to gain much of a lead as the largest lead of the set was just three points with the score 16-13 in favor of Manhattan. A three point serving run by Alissa Young (La Verne, CA) helped to draw the match level at 17-17. The match continued to seesaw with Manhattan taking the opener 25-23. 

The second set saw a strong Pioneer attack early as SHU fought its way to an early 10-6 lead. This was a lead SHU would not relinquish as Manhattan managed to come within two points of the Pioneer lead a total of six times before a kill from Krufka leveled the match 1-1.

A drama filled third set saw Manhattan take a 7-2 lead early on with a strong serving run from Ellie Wiekamp. Sacred Heart countered with it's own run from Krufka, which included two aces, to keep SHU in the match. However, it wasn't until 8-8 that a six point runs by sophomore Karly Shockey (Chino Hills, Calif.) turned the tide in the set giving SHU a 14-8 lead. The Jaspers, plagued by hitting errors, struggled to keep the set close as the gap widened to 20-13. Despite a late rally by Manhattan the Pioneers closed out the set easily 25-19 on a kill by Lee. 

With Sacred Heart looking to clinch the win, the teams battled for the fourth set. It was close until Manhattan broke the eight-all tie with a 6-1 run for a 15-9 lead. The Pioneers could only minimize the damage to a four-point deficit before the Jaspers forced a decisive fifth set with the 25-20 win.

Like the entire match, the fifth set was a tight contest, but the Pioneers got a break as Young aced back-to-back serves for the slightest 10-7 advantage. The momentum continues in SHU's favor as they hit .385 in the final set, their best of the tournament, as they took home the win, and with it second place in the tournament, 15-10.

The Pioneers head to Delaware next weekend to face Furman, Rutgers, and host-school UDel.