Bridgeport, Conn. - The LIU Post volleyball team downed Dowling on Friday night by a score three sets to one of at in the ECC semifinals at Harvey Hubbell Gymnasium in Bridgeport, Conn. Set scores favored the Pioneers, 25-22, 25-22, 21-25 and 25-22. The win puts the Pioneers into Saturday night's conference championship game against top-seeded Bridgeport.
The first set was a tightly-contested affair as LIU Post jumped out to an early edge thanks to kills by senior Heather Adams (Centerville, Ohio) and sophomore Analise Austin (Honolulu, Hawaii). LIU Post would jump out to a 7-3 lead on a kill by freshman middle blocker Heather Ball (Gilbert, Ariz.), but Dowling would storm back to level the set at 8-all. The scoreline would be knotted at 14-14 before the second-seeded Golden Lions rallied for four unanswered points. Out of a Pioneers time-out, Austin would trade kills with Dowling's Cassy Kelly (Fraser, Mich.) until consecutive attack errors and a block would bring the Pioneers within one at 19-18. The Golden Lions would increase their lead to 22-20 on an LIU Post attack error, but the Pioneers would grab the next five rallies to win the first set. Two kills by Austin, two Dowling errors and a block by Adams and Ball would notch the opening stanza for the green and gold by a 25-22 scoreline. ECC Rookie of the Year Danielle Valenza (Hauppauge, N.Y.) proved her prowess, sporting six kills on seven attempts for an impressive .714 hitting percentage through one set.
The second frame opened as a mirror to the first set, as the two sides traded leads to a 7-7 scoreline. Once again, Austin would key an LIU Post rally as a kill by the sophomore gave her side an 8-7 lead, an advantage they would not relinquish. Valenza started a run that put the Pioneers up 17-10 with one of her five kills in the set. Dowling would come back with a kill by sophomore Kataryzna Klocek (Porzan, Poland) and an ace by junior libero Kayla Morgan (Lindenhurst, N.Y.) but the Pioneers were quick to quell any chance of a Golden Lions run thanks to blocks by Valenza and junior middle hitter Melissa Hansen (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Another kill by Austin would give the green and gold a 23-18 lead, but Dowling would heighten the tension by cutting the deficit to 23-21. It was not to be for the Golden Lions in the second stanza, however, as Valenza would collect two kills in the final three points. The Pioneers attained the two-set lead going into the break, winning the second frame 25-22.
Dowling opened the third set on a four-point spree out of the mid-match timeout. Klocek got things going with a kill followed by a kill from junior outside hitter Jessica Kalbfleisch (Ridge, N.Y.) and an ace from junior setter Kayla Dillman (Rochester, N.Y.). The Golden Lions continued to pour it on with Morgan grabbing two service aces, the last one forcing an LIU Post timeout at 9-3. Dowling would lead 13-5 but the Pioneers showed excellent resiliency, winning twelve of the next fourteen points to run out to a 17-15 lead. The tandem of Valenza and Hansen did most of the work for the green and gold in the run, combining for five kills and four blocks (two block assists each). The set would ultimately be decided on a eight-point flurry by Dowling. After an Adams kill gave LIU Post a 21-17 lead, the Golden Lions rallied back. Four Pioneers attack errors, plus kills by Kalbfleisch and junior middle blocker Yarden Amsalem (Tel Aviv, Israel) a combined block and a service ace by Nicole Parkas (Dix Hills, N.Y.) won the third set for Dowling by a score of 25-21.
The fourth set opened with another four-point opening rally, as three errors coupled with a Kalbfleisch kill gave Dowling a 4-0 edge. A kill by Hansen stopped the run, but the Pioneers could only muster two points as a kill by Kelly gave Dowling a 5-2 lead. Kills by senior middle blocker Elizabeth Gorman (Lindenhurst, N.Y.) would book-end a five-point spurt that gave Dowling a 10-4 lead and forced the Pioneers into an early timeout. Gorman would continue to own the set, collecting two more kills to extend the lead to 13-5 for the second-seeded Golden Lions. The Pioneers would attempt to make a comeback, but it was quickly denied by a block by Kalbfleisch and freshman middle blocker Rachel Goatley (Toledo, Ohio), giving Dowling a 17-10 lead. Another attempted run by the Pioneers would draw them closer, but a key block by Goatley and Klocek gave Dowling a 19-13 edge. A third attempt at a rally proved to be just what the green and gold needed as Heather Adams struck three kills while junior libero Rachel Ringor (Honolulu, Hawaii) knocked down two service aces to put the Pioneers ahead 22-21. A kill from Ball followed and Adams struck another successful attack to put the Pioneers a point away from the match victory. Austin would finish the match off with a kill, and LIU Post converted 11 of the final 12 points to secure the berth into the East Coast Conference championship game.
Adams played the match of her career, converting a career-high 19 kills on 42 attempts, sporting a .333 hitting clip. Valenza added 13 kills while Austin had a double-double (12 kills, 13 digs). Senior setter Lulu Centro (Rome, Italy) dished out a match-high 35 assists and the defense of Ringor (24 kills) proved to be a huge part of the four-set victory. Graduate student Katie Hudencial (Mechanicsville, Va.) also added 15 digs for the Pioneers.
Kalbfleisch led Dowling with a 15-kill, 15-dig performance, while Dillman posted 29 assists. Morgan paced the Golden Lions with 16 digs. Parkas collected 10 digs and added three service aces.
Head coach Shellane Ogoshi and the Pioneers will face top-seed Bridgeport on Saturday night in the East Coast Conference Championship game. First serve from Hubbell Gymnasium is set for 8 p.m.
Provided by the LIU Post Sports Information Department.