By Tim Foley, news staff
The Northeastern University (NU) women’s volleyball team dazzled the home crowd at its tournament in the Cabot Center over the weekend, with successive victories against Fordham University, Presbyterian College and Binghamton University. The Huskies then went on the road to defeat the University of Massachusetts-Lowell in straight sets on Tuesday, Sept. 13.
The tournament was the Huskies’ first chance to play at home this season. The team brought a lot of energy to their play. Senior setter Jamie Bredahl used it as fuel against Fordham, leading the team with 14 kills in the match.
“It’s kind of fun,” Bredahl, a team captain, said. “The first home game is always kind of exciting, but we handled it really well, and I think we came out strong and proved ourselves.”
Leading two sets to none against Fordham, the Northeastern women were edged in the third, 25-23. That was the only frame the Huskies would lose all weekend.
“We definitely played better as the weekend went on, which is indicative of one, learning and two, depth,” Northeastern head coach Ken Nichols said.
Middle blocker Natalie Shollin shined against Fordham, racking up 12 kills in the four-set victory. Against Presbyterian, she only attempted seven hits but landed five of them, ending the night with a stellar .714 hitting percentage.
Shollin is one of five freshmen responsible for the Huskies’ success throughout the tournament.
“We keep calling [the freshmen] ‘the fab five,’” Nichols said. “They can all contribute in some unique ways. Everybody trains everybody else a little harder in the gym; everybody pushes everybody a little better.”
Freshman middle blocker Shaina White had two blocks against Presbyterian Saturday afternoon and followed with three more against Binghamton that night. Defensive specialist Clare Lund, another freshman, drove home two service aces against Presbyterian – part of a 10-ace effort from the Huskies in their sweep of the Blue Hose.
What stands out to Nichols more than the play of the freshmen is their character, he said.
“I think the most rewarding thing that I see going on is if somebody’s struggling a little bit and they come out, they come to the bench and they are the biggest cheerleader, the best advocate,” he said. “They are helping with strategy and game plan and asking what they can do better.”
That supportive attitude paid off in the match against Binghamton, when the Huskies trailed by four points late in the third.
Having taken the first two sets, the Northeastern women were coasting to a three-set victory in the third and final game of the weekend. The Bearcats had struggled to develop any sort of rhythm and fell behind in the third, but they found a way to mount a comeback to take control of the set.
Down 20-16, the Huskies maintained their composure. One of the key advantages against Binghamton was Brigitte Burcescu, who had just returned after a lower body injury. The junior outside hitter came in late in the set and struck gold with three kills, solidifying the shift in momentum.
“It’s always tough coming back from an injury like [Burcescu] has,” Bredahl said. “She has experience out there and I thought she did a really nice job coming in.”
Junior setter Kristen Walding made a clutch play, sneaking the second ball over the net when the Bearcats expected to be set, tying the score at 21.
“I think Kristen’s play at the net in terms of both an attacker and a blocker were a big help,” Nichols said.
Back-to-back kills from Burcescu gave Northeastern the lead, and the Huskies ended up taking the set 25-23 to complete the sweep.
Seniors Hannah Fry and Caterina Rosander were key contributors in the third. Fry led the team with 12 kills in the match, while Rosander’s consistency allowed her to maintain a hitting percentage of over .500 for the weekend. Junior middle blocker Carmen Costa came up big Saturday night with 11 kills against Binghamton.
Rosander and Walding received all-tournament honors for their performances.
Northeastern followed the stellar weekend with a sweep of in-state rival UMass Lowell. The Huskies posted 47 kills, anchored by Bredahl’s sixth double-double of the season and an errorless night from both Burcescu and White.
The women aim to continue their success as they take on Harvard on the road Saturday, Sept. 17.
Photo by Jerry Yu.