(With contributions from Eastern Connecticut Sport Information)
Little East Conference Tournament - First Round
WILLIMANTIC, Conn. -- For the second time in four days, the Eastern Connecticut State University Warriors defeated the University of Southern Maine Huskies in straight sets Tuesday night to advance to the semifinal round of the 2017 Little East Conference Championship Tournament. The Warriors, who defeated the Huskies on Saturday to clinch the third seed in the tournament, took the three sets by scores of 28-26, 25-14, and 25-12.
The loss ended one of the Huskies' most successful seasons at 20-10. USM's winning percentage (.667) matches the school record set in 1985 (16-8), and equaled in 2013 (22-11). The third-seeded Warriors have won their last three matches to improve to 18-8 overall. They will play second-seeded Keene State College in one semifinal match on Thursday.
Southern Maine, the sixth seed, appeared to be headed for a first-set win before Eastern staged a furious comeback from a 22-14 deficit with a 14-4 run to win the set 28-26.
Eastern pulled away in the middle stages of the next two sets to take those sets, and the match. The Warriors used a 10-2 run in the to pull away in the second set, and a six-point run in the final set to take command, 15-8, and never looked back.
Freshman Abby Stern (Manchester, Conn.) led the Warriors' frontcourt attack with 14 kills and a .355 hitting percentage. Classmate Alaetra Long (Lincoln, Neb.) added 11 kills, and senior Carly Balskus (Hebron, Conn.) knocked down nine.
Junior Leah Sopneski (Deep River Conn.) and sophomore Mckenzie Maneggia (Andover, Conn.) combined to pass out 34 assists. Senior libero Michelle Valliere (Lebanon, Conn.) had another outstanding match against the Huskies digging up 23 balls and serving three aces.
Senior outside hitter Jess Williamson (Goffstown, N.H.) had 10 kills to lead the Huskies. Sophomore Faolain Harrington (Auburn, N.H./Pinkerton Academy) had seven kills, and senior Mo Raymond (Sanbornton, N.H./Winnisquam) contributed five kills and 11 digs. Junior Nicole Schmitz (St. Paul, Minn./Cretin-Derham) passed out 24 assists, and senior Mariah Garcia (Brighton, Colo./Central) led the Huskies with 14 digs.
The match was the final appearance in a USM uniform for seniors Williamson, Raymond and Garcia. Over the past four seasons, the Huskies had a combined record of 65-57.