By Tim Foley, news staff
A 3-1 victory against the University of New Hampshire Tuesday solidified a seven-game winning streak for the Northeastern women’s volleyball team. The win was preceded by back-to-back victories over cross-town rivals Harvard University and Boston College on Saturday and Sunday respectively.
The Huskies (10-4) are exactly where they want to be as they gear up for the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) schedule.
“We’re doing all the things we said we wanted to do when we made this schedule out,” Northeastern head coach Ken Nichols said. “I’m just trying to prepare the team for conference.”
Against Harvard, the Northeastern women found themselves in a place they hadn’t been in a while, playing from behind after dropping the first set to the Crimson.
After holding a 16-9 lead in the first, Northeastern gave up a 10-1 run to the Crimson (2-7), opening the door for them.
“We had a chance in the first set,” Nichols said. “It turned out to be kind of a slug fest.”
Northeastern took the second frame 25-22, evening the match at a set a piece. Then in the third the Huskies put on a clinic.
Four early kills from freshman middle blocker Shaina White, who totaled eight in the match, helped Northeastern jump to a 9-2 lead. Harvard called a timeout but the Huskies continued to dominate, eventually winning the set 25-10.
“I haven’t seen a Northeastern team play like that in a while,” Nichols said. “We were able to side out every time Harvard served except for twice, which is almost flawless.”
Part of Northeastern’s success can be attributed to an exceptional play from the service line. The team landed 12 aces in the match—senior setter Jamie Bredahl led all players with four.
Harvard put up more of a fight in the following set, but in the end the match belonged to the Huskies, who sealed the deal with a 25-22 win in the fourth.
Senior outside hitter Hannah Fry and senior middle blocker Caterina Rosander both had six blocks in Saturday’s match, and Fry led the team with 13 kills.
Nichols pointed out that a full year has passed since Fry suffered the lower body injury that ended her season last year.
“I’m thrilled for Hannah that she’s healthy and about the level she’s been playing at,” he said.
On Sunday the team took on Boston College, and the Northeastern women really clicked.
The team’s success was partially due to a healthy Brigitte Burcescu. The junior outside hitter followed Saturday’s 12-kill performance with 11 against the Eagles (5-5).
Bredahl led the team with 13 kills in the match, landing five in the first set. The Huskies won the game 25-19.
The following set was a bit of a marathon, with Northeastern fighting back from four BC set points to stay alive.
“Our ability under pressure in close sets has really stood out,” Nichols said. “We definitely have a lot more assets this year. What’s most encouraging is that when we need people to step up late, it’s been a different person each time.”
This time it was Bredahl who stood up, landing two timely kills to propel the Huskies, 32-30.
The Eagles appeared worn out in the third, and Northeastern took advantage, winning 25-16 to complete the sweep.
Junior setter Kristen Walding provided 43 assists Sunday, and sophomore libero Gabrielle Eyl bolstered the backline with 16 digs.
Tuesday’s match against New Hampshire was close early on. The Wildcats (7-8) pushed the Huskies late in the first, but kills from Burcescu and Bredahl lifted Northeastern to a 27-25 win.
New Hampshire built a lead in the second, and though the Northeastern women strung together a comeback, the Wildcats pulled away 25-23 to even the match.
The rest of the night belonged to the Huskies, who won both of the following sets to extend their winning streak. Rosander came up big in the match, leading the team with 14 kills – her season high.
With the win, Northeastern rolls into the CAA season with plenty of momentum.
“The conference is a little more wide-open than I anticipated,” Nichols said. “I don’t think anyone has enough measure in terms of wins against top teams to determine who will emerge. I forecast a lot of hairsplitting.”
In-league competition begins Friday, as the Huskies head south to take on the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.
Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics.