Chris Kendrick (@CKendrick86)
CHICOPEE, Mass. – The Elms College women's volleyball team fell to visiting Westfield State University, 3-1 (23-25, 25-20, 24-26, 11-25), in a non-conference contest at Picknelly Arena Friday night. The Blazers move to 8-7 on the season, while the Owls improve to 6-8 overall.
The Blazers opened the first set strong, jumping to an 8-2 lead behind a pair of kills from freshman Ayanna Meadows (Springfield, Mass.) and aces from classmate Dakota Stewart (Victoria, Texas) and senior Danielle Redding (Las Vegas, N.V.). The Owls responded with a 5-1 run, featuring two kills from sophomore Natasha Belardo (Springfield, Mass.) and two aces from sophomore Micaela Murray (Norfolk, Mass.), to trim the gap to 9-7. Westfield State continued to whittle away at the deficit until another strike from Belardo handed the Owls a 14-13 lead. A pair of aces from junior Lizzy Taylor (Medfield, Mass.) helped the Owls create separation, but a kill from Meadows evened the set at 20-20. Tied at 22-22, the Owls capitalized on Blazer errors to secure the 25-22 win.
The sides traded points to kick off the second set until a string of Owls miscues pushed Elms ahead 12-9. The Blazers maintained an edge with a kill from Redding and an ace from Stewart, but back-to-back strikes from junior Brianna Starkey (Rockland, Mass.) set the score at 15-13. The Blazers pushed their advantage to 20-15 behind a solo block from freshman Hannah Pichardo (South Glen Falls, N.Y.), and then wrapped up the 25-20 win on a slam from Redding.
The Owls grabbed control early in the third set a Taylor served up four straight aces to put Westfield ahead 5-2. Meadows and Starkey traded a trio of kills, and then Meadows added an ace to even the set at 10-10. The Owls pulled ahead with a 6-3 run, but Elms answered with strikes from Redding, Meadows and sophomore Hannah Adams (Deerfield, Mass.) to knot the score at 18-18. Starkey and freshman Ainsley McLeod (Hampden, Mass.) helped the Owls keep the lead until tallies from Stewart and junior Rachel Magnuson (Miller Place, N.Y.) made it 23-23. Westfield State tied the score at 24-24, and then a pair of errors from Elms gave the Owls the 26-24 win.
The Owls raced to a 7-3 advantage in the fourth set behind strikes from Starkey, Belardo, and McLeod. Westfield State pulled away with a 9-4 run, featuring a kill and a block from Starkey, to possess a 16-7 lead. Tallies from Starkey and Belardo helped escort the lead to 22-10, and then the Owls closed out the victory on a double block from Starkey and McLeod to capture the 25-11 lead.
Redding and Meadows led the Blazers attack with 12 kills apiece. Meadows added 14 digs for her second double-double of the season, while Stewart notched her 11th double-double of the season with a team-high 34 assists and a team-high 20 digs. Adams tallied 18 digs and nine kills, and junior Caroline Locke (West Springfield, Mass.) snared 19 digs in the loss.
Starkey slammed a match-high 15 kills and three blocks to pace the Owls offense. Belardo chipped in 10 kills, while McLeod added eight kills and two blocks. Murray dished out a match-high 37 assists with 17 digs, and Taylor served up a match-high seven aces with a match-high 30 digs in the win.
The Blazers will look to return to the win column when they travel to Newbury College for a New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) tilt Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. Westfield State will face Eastern Connecticut State and Western New England University in a tri-match at WNEU Saturday starting at 1:00 p.m.