The women’s volleyball team fall in three sets to Towson in the CAA tournament final


Photo courtesy of Hunter Peters

Northeastern women’s volleyball against Towson in the spring

Mihiro Shimano, sports editor

The North conference No. 2 seed Northeastern Huskies were a completely different team on the court today against the North conference No. 1 Towson Tigers in the final championship game of the CAA tournament. However, despite their best efforts, they were not able to claim what would be their first-ever CAA title, as they fell to Towson, 3-0. In the sweep, Towson claimed their second consecutive CAA championship on their home court. 

Northeastern (8-3, 4-2 CAA), who had not yet faced Towson (6-0, 3-0 CAA) this season due to COVID-19 protocols and game cancellations, was able to clean up their errors that had riddled their play the day before, coming into the game with high energy and confidence. 

Freshman outside hitter Defne Arliel brought forth the Huskies’ attack at the beginning of the first set with several kills. Arliel was joined by sophomore opposite outside hitter Erica Staunton, who returned strong onto the court today after a rocky start last night, getting several kills as well as a block assist. The focus was unmatched for the Huskies as they reached the middle of their set, trailing just behind Towson. A smart dump by senior setter Samantha Shupe put the Huskies just two points away at 15-17. 

In the highly-contested final few points, a point was given to Towson after a kill, which flew right out of bounds, but looked as if it had made contact with Arliel just before. With every point crucial in the game, the call was challenged by Northeastern head coach Lenika Vazquez. The call was reversed, gaining the point for the Huskies 23-22. However, the one-point lead was not enough as the Tigers put the ball into the Northeastern court one too many times, clinching the set 24-26. 

The second set started off slightly bumpy, as ball-handling and attack errors racked up several points on both sides, eventually leading to a tie 4-4. The error run was ended by a huge shot by Arliel, followed by several kills from the other Huskies. Northeastern held Towson at an arm’s length, keeping them in check. But the Tigers gained back their momentum with a kill from junior outside hitter Emily Jerome after a good rally, forcing the Huskies to take a timeout, trailing 10-13. 

Towson held their small lead with several intense shots, but the Huskies returned their call, keeping up the intensity. However, the overall flow of the game was disrupted heavily when Towson head coach, Don Metil, challenged a point after it looked as if the ball had gone under the net during a rally. Officials initially reviewed whether it was even possible to review that play, even bringing out the official playbook. The unprecedented long break and review ended with the officials reversing the call, giving the point to Towson, 15-21. After the pause, Northeastern could not get back into their rhythm, dropping the second set to Towson, 17-25. 

Vazquez and her team knew that the opening of this pivotal set would be vital in gaining confidence for the rest of the game, and they delivered right from the start. Coming in, sophomore middle blocker Nailah Jenkins and Arliel hit several kills, taking the lead off of the block for Northeastern. Staunton joined in the mix, making several attempts from passes by the front line during the rally. 

In a smart move by Vazquez, senior middle blocker Gabrielle Tschannen, an unsung hero, came in halfway through the third set. Her first appearance was an impactful one as she joined Jenkins in a huge block assist, gaining a five-point lead against Towson, 11-6. 

The Tigers crawled back from the deficit with an intense rally, eventually tying the Huskies, 11-11. In a pivotal moment, however, Towson overcame several of Jenkins’ attacks and began to pull away from Northeastern. It did not help that the rotation put freshman outside hitter Nina Cajic on the serve, one of the most powerful serves in the conference. 

First contact for the Huskies was tough but with Cajic’s serving rotation ending after a service error, Northeastern could not afford any errors as they tried to catch up in the last several rounds. A huge shot by Tschannen brought the Huskies closer to making their comeback in this set, but a smash by freshman middle blocker Aayinde Smith gave Towson the match point. The Huskies did not let go without a fight as Jenkins dumped the ball over the net for a final effort, but junior setter Kristin Spengler got the final kill, giving the Towson the clean sweep needed to defend their championship title for the second year in a row. 

In the hard-fought battle, Northeastern’s postseason run came to a close. Arliel and Jenkins, who were key players of this weekend’s tournament, were awarded as All-Tournament team members. With only two players – junior opposite outside hitter Brianna Daphnis and senior setter Samantha Shupe – leaving the program, the Huskies will look to return with a strong roster next season led again by Vazquez.