Northeastern women’s volleyball dominates Merrimack on court, 3-0

Northeastern+women%27s+volleyball+dominated+the+court+Thursday%2C+winning+three+consecutive+sets+against+Merrimack.+

Mihiro Shimano

Northeastern women’s volleyball dominated the court Thursday, winning three consecutive sets against Merrimack.

Mihiro Shimano, sports editor

The Northeastern women’s volleyball team (2-1) dominated non-conference opponent Merrimack College (0-2) Thursday evening, coming off the court 3-0 (25-14, 25-17, 25-13). This game marked the first meeting between the two teams as Merrimack looks to compete in their second NCAA Division I season. 

Several standouts included sophomore outside hitter Erica Staunton, who had 20 kills, a career-high, and racked up a hit percentage of .643 as well as middle blocker sophomore Nailah Jenkins with .714. Last week, Staunton took home the CAA offensive player of the week title, a well-deserved one after her previous two performances against Rhode Island and Boston College. 

Senior outside hitter Katie Rolfe also made a comeback on the court today, appearing in all three sets after being injured for the past two years and undergoing two surgeries. 

The Huskies started off the first set getting a feel for Merrimack, especially since they were a team they have never played before. Several kills were made by junior outside hitter Brianna Daphnis and senior middle blocker Gabrielle Tschanennen in the opening minutes. Then Staunton’s attack began as she hiked up a 4-0 scoring run, which the Warriors could not return across the net. 

An attack error blocked by a power duo of freshman middle blocker Marika Virthe and Daphnis led to Merrimack taking a timeout. The Huskies continued to trek on, but ultimately won the set after an attack error by Merrimack gave them the point. 

In a pregame interview, head coach Lenika Vazquez said that the team, although they had strong serves, was often set back due to too many service errors. This set did not allow for the best serves for the Huskies as they lost several points to the Warriors from service errors. 

“Let’s just say we still have work to do in that area,” Vazquez said post-game. “That will be a continued goal as we move forward, and definitely a focus in practices.” 

Straight out of the break, Northeastern took up 10 points in the first running minutes with a 10-2 score, forcing Merrimack to take a timeout. Most notably, Jenkins began her attack on the Warriors, with several kills that were unstoppable across the net. Jenkins said that the connection between her and sophomore setter Liz Carroll was one of the big reasons why she was able to make such great hits over the net. 

Freshman outside hitter Arliel Defne, who has been a leading player in the past few games for NU, was not up to her usual attacking today, as she missed several incoming balls from Merrimack. However, a kill that put the Huskies at 19-15 placed her back into the game. After two consecutive aces from freshman libero and defensive specialist Maddie Donaphon, Defne placed a kill, ending the set 25-17 with a win for NU. 

The Huskies came into the third set with one final push to cement their win tonight. Several attacks followed by a sneaky dump by senior setter Samantha Shupe ambushed the Warriors and put the ball right in the middle of the court, leading Merrimack to take a timeout, 5-0. In the third set, the court also saw a fresh face as junior setter Bridget Holly played for the first time this season. 

The second half of the set was dominated by Staunton as she racked up points one after the other, both spiking and dropping the ball in unexpected places, just outside of Merrimack’s reach. Although her service error disrupted the 8-0 scoring run for the Huskies, she ultimately brought back the ball into control.

However, as the Huskies neared their set, Merrimack could not give up without a fight. After gaining back the serve, they rallied a few times that led to attack errors on the Huskies’. Errors were speckled into the last few points as an attack error by Merrimack brought them the last point of the set, ending the night 25-13. 

“I thought it was a good match overall,” Vazquez said. “We came into this match with very specific goals about controlling our side of the net and controlling our energy and I think we did a good job of that. Merrimack definitely had some runs in there where they brought a lot of energy, and I think we responded very well.” 

The Huskies next game will be March 5 against Hofstra, their first official CAA matchup. This season, CAA has divided the conference into two groups, North and South. The Huskies will be playing in the North division against conference opponents Hofstra, Towson and Delaware.