Over this past weekend, the UConn volleyball team went to the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC) for the first time since 1994.
Following a semifinal defeat in the Big East championship, the team, which went into the series with a 21-10 record, headed to Massachusetts to face off against North Carolina A&T State University on Saturday. UConn’s 3-0 victory in that game propelled them into another series, this time against Boston College, on Sunday, a challenge that the team also defeated.
On Saturday, the Huskies took on the intimidating North Carolina A&T State University Aggies. The Aggies came into the game with a 20-10 record and a one-game losing streak following their own postseason defeat by High Point University in the Big South Conference Championship. This series was a chance for both teams to improve the narrative around their postseason, since their conference championship hopes both ended in a 0-3.
UConn got off to a hot start in set one, taking an early 12-4 lead on the back of players like senior Caylee Parker and graduate student McKayla Wuensch. The team limited the Aggies’ ability to hit effectively and continued to score points en route to a relatively easy 25-12 victory in the first set. That first game set the tone for the rest of the series, as the Huskies proved that at the very least they would not be 3-0’d again.
Unfortunately for the Aggies, they were not quite so lucky. In game two, they gave the Huskies eight of their first nine points via errors, a position that was deeply beneficial for the Huskies as they rocketed to a 9-3 initial lead. Wuensch, determined to continue that streak, showed up in a big way in game two with the start of a 6-2 run that would put the Huskies in prime position to claim the second set with a 25-14 scoreline, only a slight improvement for the Aggies.
Game three was more of a contest. The Aggies claimed a 8-6 lead to begin the set, but they were unable to maintain their advantage in the face of overwhelming pressure by UConn. The Huskies went on a five-run streak, aided by a service ace from Jasmine Davis, which gave them an 11-8 lead. The Aggies went for one final resurgence with a 4-0 run a few minutes later that made it thirteen all, but from there, the Huskies never looked back. Although they did drop more points to the Aggies than in any of the previous games, 19 in total, it wasn’t enough and the Huskies claimed a 3-0 win that ended the Aggies’ season.
It was the first time the Huskies had won a series at NIVC, and it pushed them on to Sunday when they faced off against Boston College. The Eagles came into the series with a 17-16 record and a two-game win streak following their victory against Delaware State on Saturday.
The Huskies did not get off to the same start as they had against the Aggies. The two teams jostled for position in the first set, with both ending the set with more than 20 points. The Eagles had 19 kills in the first set, more than the Huskies’ 13, and were eventually able to squeak out a 25-21 victory that set the stage for a very strong series from both teams.
In the second set, the Huskies relied on strong play from Davis and Kennadie Jake-Turner, who guided the team through a difficult stretch in the middle of the set, when the Eagles took a 12-10 victory off a 5-3 Huskies start to eventually sneak back into the lead. A 6-0 run from the Huskies with the game tied at 19 cemented their victory and a tie in the series 1-1.
In the third set the Huskies once again showed their mettle, They took a lead early once more, before the Eagles snuck in to take back the lead at a 15-13 scoreline reminiscent of the second set. However, the Huskies were undeterred by the swing, coming out of the next media timeout with a 4-0 streak that gave them the lead back, a lead they would keep. With a final score of 25-22, this was the closest set in the series and the closest set the Huskies played all weekend.
The fourth set was a return to strength for the Eagles. They kicked off the set with an 8-4 run and kept the momentum high throughout. Despite a relatively close score, 25-20, the Huskies were unable to mount a resistance to the eventual Eagles win and the series being tied 2-2.
In the fifth set, which due to rules only goes to 15 points, senior Anna Petrova came out to show her team that they needed to keep their season going. She helped lead the Huskies to a 6-3 opening effort, a big margin in a set played to just 15, before being assisted by teammate Taylor Pannell who had three kills in the set. The final two kills, scored by Caylee Parker, cemented the Huskies’ second NIVC win ever and moved them on to play another series next Wednesday, Dec. 8th.
They’ll be taking on North Florida in the next round. The time of that game is yet to be determined but will be available on the UConn athletics website.