Volleyball stays close, but falls in straight sets

By on September 11, 2011
A mere seven points separated the Quinnipiac Bobcats and the Delaware State Hornets Saturday afternoon.

After losing the first set 25-22, the Bobcats battled to a pair of two-point defeats in the final two sets, 25-23, falling in straight sets.

Playing against an experience Delaware State squad, who finished last season one win away from an NCAA tournament bid, the young Bobcats couldn’t scratch out the points when they needed them the most toward the end of each set.

“Our freshmen just got a little bit rattled,” Quinnipiac head coach Robin Lamott Sparks said. “We’re very young. At one point we had one senior out there. We only have two people who started last year playing. I think the fact that they nearly went NCAA tournament showed. They had a lot more confidence than we did.”

The jumping serve of Delaware State sophomore Jessica Russell-Croucher gave Quinnipiac (1-8) problems throughout the first set. The Hornets won four straight points to start the match and a pivotal six straight points to give them a 19-15 lead after trailing 15-13. The Hornet lead was reduced to one after a Tierra Allen tip kill landed just out of the reach of the back defenders but the Bobcats would ultimately lose the next two points and the set.

The second set nearly mirrored the first as the Bobcats jumped out to a 14-10 lead only to see it disappear as the Hornets won nine consecutive to take a 19-14 advantage. But the young Bobcats, who were without their junior libero Logan Riker to injury, clawed back to tie the score at 23 before losing the set 25-23.

“I think we made unforced errors when we didn’t need to and took a big swing when we didn’t need to take that swing,” Sparks said. “We really missed Logan Riker tonight. She really tells our hitters what to do and everybody can hear her. So I think that makes a big difference but I also think when she gets back, I told her we’re going to be better defensively because other people are having to step into roles they haven’t had to. That only makes us strong when we get into conference play.”

Looking for some life off the bench, freshman Tanner Celestin got the call she had been waiting for. Playing in her first significant minutes of the season, Celestin led her team with six digs in the third set, recorded her first career service ace, and notched her first career kill on the way to three for the set. Celestin, along with fellow freshmen Brittanie Robinson and Allen, totaled 10 of the Bobcat’s 12 kills in the set. Despite losing the set and the match, Sparks was pleased with the play of her freshmen.

“It was great. Tanner, that’s the first time she has been called off the bench and played like that,” Sparks said. “She played spectacular. She’s been doing great things in practice and we gave her a shot at it. I was really pleased with Tanner. I thought she infused us with some great energy.”

Quinnipiac’s attack produced 31 kills, led by Allen who has notched three straight games with double digit kills and a team-high 38 in the three home games. Senior setter Kayla Lawler produced 23 assists in defeat.

The Bobcats will look for continued improvement from their underclassmen as Northeast Conference play begins in just three games.

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