Volleyball Wins Weekend Games To Get Back Into Top Four

Ryan Jones

One month ago, Central Connecticut volleyball opened Northeast Conference play in heartbreaking fashion, losing in five sets to Long Island University. Four wins and a month removed, the Blue Devils got their revenge, defeating the Sharks in five.

LIU opened up the match looking primed to repeat the results of the teams’ first encounter, handily taking the first set 25-13.

The Blue Devils got right back into the match in the second, keeping things tight the whole way. After missing previous games due to injury, junior Gala Galabova entered the second set and had an immediate impact for the Blue Devils.

“[Gala’s] play for sure contributed to us beating LIU,” head coach Linda Sagnelli said. “She bothered the outside hitters and played a great game.” Early into her day on the court, she blocked a shot to put CCSU up 23-18, a spark that ignited the Blue Devils going forward.

LIU took another close set in the third, but the fourth was no such close contest. The Blue Devils put together one of their best showings on both sides of the ball, using a 17-3 run and forcing a clean .000 hitting percentage to take the fourth 25-8.

“To beat them 25-8 is unusual,” Sagnelli said. “You really don’t see that score when one good team is playing another, but that was a great momentum shift in the match and beating them 25-8, we were sky high going into the fifth.”

The Blue Devils were able to ride that momentum into the fifth, but things still came down to the wire in the final frame.

With victory only a point away from CCSU, LIU went on a 3-0 run to tie things at 14. The two teams battled the rest of the way, but kills from Madelyn Kaprelyan and Samantha McCreath, respectively, won the Blue Devils the match.

“In one of those volleys,” Sagnelli said. “We went back and looked at it and it was such a complete team rally. Everybody on the floor touched the ball multiple times and they all made great plays on the ball.”

Sagnelli said she was proud of her team’s performance down the stretch, and thinks this win is a good sign of how the team will play to finish the NEC season.

“We’ve had so many close losses, a little bit of frustration can creep in so this was a much needed win in that kind of environment,” Sagnelli said. “Beating them on the road by two points in the fifth is a dose of medicine that the team needed and now I hope that the team rides this confidence through the rest of the second half of the NEC round robin. That weekend started the second half, so we knew that the [LIU] game was going to be a big game not just for us but them too. We’re tied with them in the conference now and two game back from Bryant and Sacred Heart so I think that this is gonna go right down until the end. There’s a bunch of good teams and only four can go, so that was a critical win Friday. The team should be proud of themselves, I’m really proud of them.”

CCSU was back on the road Saturday to face Fairleigh Dickinson, where things were a little less contentious.

After dropping the first two points, the Blue Devils did not trail in the first.

The second and third were more of the same from CCSU, allowing early runs but quickly gathering to take the sets.

With their two wins this weekend, the Blue Devils are back into a playoff spot with the fourth spot in the NEC. They’ll be back in action Friday, taking on Merrimack at home before heading back on the road to face St. Francis Brooklyn Saturday.

“We want to keep working on our defense,” Sagnelli said, “because that’s what kept us in the volleys. Going to St. Francis Brooklyn is always a real interesting match. You have a very closed in feeling. We have an older team, so the returning players know what it’s like there. It’s a test in focus and discipline when you’re there because its very loud.”