The UConn women’s volleyball team began conference play at Gampel Pavilion against St. John’s University. The Huskies split the two-game series at home to move to 1-1 in Big East play and 1-2 overall.
Game one of the series started very competitively as both teams kept the first set close throughout, the biggest lead of the set was an early four-point UConn advantage. With UConn trailing 20-22 in the latter stages of the opening set, Caylee Parker recorded a kill to give the Huskies the serve back. Kennadie Jake-Turner was then able to secure the first set for UConn 25-22 following four spectacular serves that resulted in three aces and a bad set from Iliana Rodriguez.
St. John’s was able to steal the momentum in the second set. The second set began with both teams exchanging a mix of kills and errors, bringing the score to 10-10. From that point on, St. John’s cleaned up their game and dominated set two. During the middle of the set, the Red Storm strung together six consecutive points, building up a substantial eight-point lead. Errors kept piling up for the Huskies as they quickly dropped set two 15-25.
With the match tied at a set apiece, both squads displayed exceptionally high levels of play. Neither team led by more than three points in the third set and the score was tied on 16 separate occasions. The Huskies were able to wrap up the set 25-23 following a Parker kill off a Madi Whitmore assist. In the third set, UConn recorded 16 kills and posted an attacking percentage of .282.
The Huskies were in control throughout the entire fourth set. After Efrosini Alexakou notched a kill for the Red Storm during the first point of the set, the Huskies never trailed again. St. John’s was only able to win consecutive points on three instances during the final set. A service error by Rachele Rastelli would conclude the fourth set 25-17 in favor of UConn.
In game one of the series, UConn finished with four more aces and blocks than St. John’s, while the Red Storm finished with eight more kills. Parker led the Huskies in kills with 18, and Taylor Pannell led the team in blocks with five. Courtney Morris also registered 24 assists and eight digs in the victory.
The second game of the series saw UConn get off to a promising start. The Huskies were placing their serves beautifully and got off to a 14-9 lead. Trailing 12-16, the Red Storm made a strong push ripping off six straight points to take the lead. St. John’s was then able to ride their lead to the end of the set, finishing with a 25-21 advantage. Both teams played a clean first set, with the Red Storm finishing with a .452 attacking percentage to the Huskies .379 percentage.
St. John’s continued to stay aggressive as they went up 5-1 to start the second set. UConn was able to tie the score numerous times throughout the second set, but St. John’s continued to keep their nose in front and had a few set points at 24-21. UConn did not panic though, as they utilized two kills from Parker as well as a couple of attacking errors from St. John’s to generate their own set point at 25-24. The Red Storm were able to save the first UConn set point, but the Huskies were able to capitalize on their second set point and grab the set 27-25.
The third set began with both teams wrestling back and forth with the lead. With UConn up 11-10, St. John’s began to raise their level of play. The Red Storm were firing on all cylinders and placing the Huskies under a ton of pressure. Alexakou closed out the set for the Red Storm 25-19 with an emphatic kill. In the third set, St. John’s registered 17 kills to go along with a .538 attacking percentage.
UConn had a positive beginning to the fourth set. The Huskies were dictating play and forcing St. John’s into errors. The Huskies led 16-13, but the Red Storm were able to take the lead at 18-17. The momentum shifted multiple times during the closing stages of the fourth set. The score would become leveled at 23-23, making the next point critical for both sides. St. John’s were able to win the next two points to take game two of the series.
The Red Storm’s Rastelli concluded the series with the most kills at 47, while UConn’s Pannell recorded the most blocks with 13. Both teams notched over 100 digs and 90 kills across the two-game series.
The Huskies will look to pick up another in-conference victory when they go on the road for an away series with Villanova this weekend.