Huskies defeat Delaware to earn postseason bid

Northeastern libero Gabrielle Eyl dives to save the ball. Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics

Splitting a pair of weekend matches, Northeastern volleyball secured a spot in the CAA tournament, sweeping the University of Delaware but then falling to Towson University on Senior Day.

“You have to take a moment and appreciate your accomplishments as you go,” head coach Ken Nichols said. “It’s a good goal as a preseason five, to know that we’re in with two weekends to go. I want to make sure I acknowledge the team and their efforts when it comes to this stuff, but we’ve got bigger goals. We’ve got bigger aspirations.”

Friday’s match was Northeastern’s Dig Pink night, an event held to raise money for the Side Out Foundation, which funds clinical trials for patients with stage four breast cancer. Players wore pink socks with breast cancer ribbons to show their support.

“We were very, very energized about this event,” fourth-year middle blocker Carmen Costa said. “The last time we did this was my freshman year, and our team loved the idea of it.”

The Huskies (16-9, 9-3 CAA) exploded midway through the first set against Delaware, posting a 9-1 run to take a sizeable lead.

A combined nine kills for first-year outside hitter Athena Ardila and fellow attacker Amy Underdown lifted the Huskies to a 25-21 advantage in the first set.

“We were more comfortable than we were accustomed to,” Nichols said. “It doesn’t take brilliance or perfection to win these close sets … it’s just the willingness to go for it and the comfort under pressure – we just need a little bit more of it. And strangely enough, it was there in droves against Delaware.”

Underdown, a second-year outside hitter from Temecula, California, led all attackers with 13 kills in the match.

Fourth-year setter Kristen Walding provided the front line with a team-leading 27 assists, 11 of which came in the second set.

The Blue Hens (5-17, 3-9 CAA) came out strong in the second, developing a 5-1 lead.

But the Huskies came back and tied the score after two service aces from first-year middle blocker Gabrielle Tschannen, who was named CAA Rookie of the Week.

“We knew that we had to do work [against Delaware],” Costa said. “Anyone on any given day can beat anyone in this conference, so we knew that we had to come out fighting.”

The Huskies battled late into the set, eventually pulling away and winning 25-21.

Tschannen added two kills to help the team extend its lead.

In the third, Tschannen served another ace and Costa landed two of her season-high seven kills to put Northeastern ahead 12-6. The women went on to win the set by a larger margin than the previous two, sealing the sweep with a 25-18 nod.

Sunday was Senior Day for the Huskies. The date coincided with Northeastern’s Parent’s Weekend, and Nichols said that family members came from all over to attend the match.

“It’s such an invested and thoughtful group of parents,” the coach added. “They’re very genuine when it comes to their appreciation of the Northeastern experience … Some of the parents, we’ve had around nearly all of the matches this year.”

Costa, Walding and outside hitter Brigitte Burcescu were honored before the match.

For Costa, who is from Los Angeles, California, having family at the game was a big deal. She said that the experience was surreal.

“Having [Walding and Burcescu] there, we were all just laughing that the ceremony happened way too fast,” Costa said. “The past few years, we’ve had our ups and downs … this year we mesh so well on and off the court.”

The Huskies battled deep into the first set against Towson Sunday, but the Tigers (23-3, 9-3 CAA) emerged on top, 30-28. Some of that momentum carried into the second, as the Huskies were ousted 25-21. Despite a strong performance midway through the set, Northeastern gave up the last seven points and Towson took a 2-0 lead in the match.

The Northeastern front line combined for 15 kills in the third, winning 25-20 to extend the match. But the fourth set brought trouble from the service line for the Huskies, who suffered four service errors, as compared to four aces from the Tigers.  

“We were 2-12 in terms of service aces and service errors,” Nichols said. “I’ll take the 12 errors – I have no problem with the 12 errors, but we need to be 10, 12, 14 aces in.”

Despite a 4-1 run toward the end of the set, the Huskies were unable to complete the comeback.

Towson won 25-23 to take the match.

With four games left until the start of the CAA tournament, the Huskies prepare to face the College of William & Mary on the road Friday as they continue to fight for a favorable seeding.

“These are huge matches for us,” Nichols said. “We don’t want to open up the door. We want to make sure we put as much pressure as we can on the teams around us.”

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