Husky volleyball defeats Hofstra, keeps winning streak alive

Husky volleyball defeats Hofstra, keeps winning streak alive
Amy Underdown jumps for the ball during an earlier season match. Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics.

After a week off from matches, Northeastern University volleyball returned well-prepared for Hofstra University, winning in four sets and maintaining an unblemished record in conference.

Sunday’s match at Hofstra was highlighted by a crucial performance from third-year libero Gabrielle Eyl. The Boulder, Colorado, native recorded her 1,500th career dig. The monumental dig was the first of the day for Eyl, who finished the match with 19 and holds the fourth all-time record in Northeastern history in the category.

“[Eyl] is comparable to any libero in the country,” head coach Ken Nichols said. “She could have had her pick of pick of places to play. There’s a tremendous amount of respect there from her peers, and she’s the consonant competitor.”

The Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) season has reached its halfway point, and the Huskies (15-6, 8-0 CAA) are riding an 11-game winning streak.

“This year, what’s so different is the kind of energy,” Eyl said. “The energy this year is more focused. Everyone understands that we have something to prove.”

Eyl was part of a defensive effort that included four Northeastern players with digs in the double digits, propelling the Huskies to a seven-point margin victory in the first set.

In the second set, Northeastern quickly jumped out to a 5-0 lead. The first two kills came from first-year outside hitter Athena Ardila, who had 13 in the match.

Parity among the Husky attackers was quite apparent on Sunday. Ardila followed second-year Amy Underdown (17) and fourth-year Brigitte Burcescu (14) on the stat sheet for kills. She landed six in the first to drive the Huskies up 25-18.

Despite losing the first frame, the Pride (13-9, 5-3 CAA) won five of the last six points in the set, and this carried into the second, as they ran off eight in a row to take a 13-5 lead.

“Hofstra earned it,” Nichols said, “We got stuck in rotations. Pre-conference, this happened a couple times and I tried to over-coach. This time around we tried to hold true for a while, and that didn’t necessarily work out that well either.”

The Huskies struggled with attack errors and could only muster 12 points in the second. The Pride had three service aces in the set, totaling seven for the match.

“We’re entitled to a bad set now and then,” the coach added. “One of the things that Hofstra does well is serve and go high risk. When they get on a roll from the service line, they can rattle off five or six.”

The third set was the closest battle of the day, and the Northeastern women were able to use it to tip the balance in their favor. Burcescu tallied seven kills, and first-year middle blocker Gabrielle Tschannen came up with two of her match-high five blocks, one of which gave the Huskies a 26-24 advantage to take a 2-1 lead in the match.

Nichols called Hofstra’s service game a “live by the sword, die by the sword” approach, and this showed as the Huskies capitalized on four Hofstra service errors in the fourth set. First-year setter Samantha Shupe contributed seven assists in the frame. She led the team with 21 in the match, notching a double-double.

The Northeastern women built a 13-5 lead and didn’t look back, solidifying the set 25-18 to win the match. Looking toward the remainder of conference play, the road is traditionally tougher as the Huskies meet their previous opponents the second time around.

“What’s on the forefront of everyone’s mind is that at this time last year we were 7-1, and then we fell apart after that,” Eyl said. “So everyone’s trying to be cautiously happy, and we’re still working really hard.”

The Huskies will travel to face University of North Carolina-Wilmington Thursday. Eyl said she and her teammates are trying to approach the game as if their record was 0-0.

“We’ve always had that mentality,” the libero added. “But especially before this weekend, it’s more prevalent than ever.”

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