West Haven, Conn. - In a thrilling NCAA Tournament debut, the Molloy volleyball team rallied from down two sets to defeat Saint Anselm College, 3-2, to advance to the semifinal round of the NCAA East Region Championship.
In the effort, Sophia Smith, who totaled 54 assists, became the program's career assist leader with 2186 in just two seasons. Dakota O'Neill tallied 33 digs, bringing her season total to 666, a new single-season record at Molloy. The senior is now just 60 shy of the program's career record.
Despite leading early in each of the first two sets, the maroon and white were downed by the Hawks.
The Lions trailed, 16-13, in the third set before a four-point rally, featuring two kills from freshman Kacey Affrunti, gave the second-seeded Molloy a 17-16 lead. The team ultimately led, 23-19, after consecutive kills from redshirt sophomore Carly Banks. Molloy stayed alive as a service error sealed a 25-22 victory.
An eight-point rally in the fourth set put the maroon and white in front, 11-8. Late in the set, the Hawks strung together a six-point rally of their own to come within one, 23-22, but Banks and sophomore Devon Hagerstrom ended the set and forced the contest to a fifth and deciding set.
Two kills from sophomore Hailey Wehr helped Molloy to an early 3-1 lead. The Lions pulled ahead with a five-point rally, 13-7 before a kill from Wehr took the squad to match point. Hagerstrom and Wehr both jumped up for a block to end the game and take Molloy to the semifinals, defeating Saint Anselm 3-2.
With 21 kills, Banks led three Lions in double-digit kills, joined by 15 from Affrunti and 12 from Wehr. Wehr also tallied seven blocks in the effort.
The team will face No. 6 American International College tomorrow (Dec. 1) at 5:00 p.m. in West Haven, Conn.
Provided by the Molloy Sports Information Department.