Volleyball: Huskies drop first conference match

By Jewel Della Valle

The Northeastern volleyball team suffered two hard-fought losses at the hands of Connecticut and Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) opponent Hofstra last week.

Head coach Ken Nichols named insufficient team spirit and inability to execute the game plan as main reasons for the Huskies’ struggles.

“We’re still lacking the spirit as a team to command wins in close games,” Nichols said. “I hate to [go] all the way back to Kristin Ursillo [class of 2003] but her specialty was not just her serve and set and all the rest of it, it was her ability to get people to play under pressure at a different level. Right now, we don’t have anybody who’s doing that, certainly not with any sort of consistency.”

Connecticut went into the match undefeated and continued that streak by beating Northeastern in three sets Sept. 6 (26-30, 30-32, 23-30), but the match was closer than the scores indicate. Northeastern led most of game one until Connecticut broke a 24-24 tie and took the lead.

Northeastern went down 18-13 midway through game two, but with two short runs evened the score at 21-21. The two teams jockeyed for the lead throughout the rest of the game, but Connecticut prevailed. They came out hammering the ball in game three and never trailed again.

“I think mostly just executing our game plan [was our problem through all three games],” said sophomore outside hitter Sarah Stein. “We just let it go at the end and kind of played flat more than excited and ready.”

Though Northeastern lost the match, Nichols said he found positives in the defeat.

“Clearly our offense is firing on all cylinders,” Nichols said. “I mean, .313 [attacking percentage] is nothing shabby to hit in a match. It’s just hard to win when the other team hits .420.”

Junior outside hitter Kira Batura led the Huskies’ 52 kills with 14. Senior setter Ivana Pavlisin led in assists with 26 and sophomore middle hitter Lauren DeTurk led in digs with nine. DeTurk was also second in kills with 12.

Northeastern opened conference play with a 1-3 loss against Hofstra Sunday (18-30, 30-24, 19-30, 27-30). Hofstra dominated the first game with aggressive play, breaking an early 3-3 tie and running the scoreboard for a 30-18 win.

“We just didn’t come out ready to play,” Batura said.

Nichols said unforced errors were a glaring problem in both matches.

“We scored a lot of points for Hofstra,” Nichols said. “Their dominance was based in large part on our ability to score points for them. … It’s just hitting balls out of bounds, serving balls into the net. Just silly, unforced errors.”

Despite the game one loss, the Huskies came back in game two and pounded the ball, recording an amazing 11-0 run.

“That was the most unbelievable run in volleyball history since we started the rally scoring,” Hofstra interim head coach Lauren Netherby said. “I haven’t seen anything like it; I couldn’t believe it. My team couldn’t either, but I have to say on our behalf that coming back from that showed a lot of heart. Northeastern came out firing.”

Batura said before game two Nichols put it simply: “Play to win, not to lose.”

Despite the run and game win, the Huskies fell to Hofstra in the next two games for a match defeat.

Northeastern and Hofstra traded leads through game three, but mid-way through, Hofstra managed to break away for a win.

“We just didn’t keep our eye on the prize,” Batura said. “The same thing we’ve been struggling with is finishing a game. … We let them run a couple points on us in a couple of rotations. We dig ourselves too big of a hole, we can’t get out.”

In game four neither team had more than a four-point lead, but Hofstra broke away midgame again and notched the match victory.

“We had discovered their weaknesses and weren’t able to take advantage well enough unfortunately,” Nichols said. “We’ve got to be able to execute the game plan. We watched these teams on tape, we practiced all the nuances … We didn’t execute what we practiced, which is very frustrating.”

DeTurk led in kills with 16, Pavlisin had 24 assists and Batura had 17 digs.

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