BOSTON, Mass. - The University of Saint Joseph volleyball team dropped a pair of matches on the final day of the regular season in a Great Northeast Athletic Conference tri-match hosted by Suffolk inside Regan Gymnasium on Saturday afternoon. USJ was swept in both matches, 3-0, dropping the opener to Simmons College (19-25, 19-25, 14-25) and then the finale to Suffolk (21-25, 24-26, 18-25). The loss to Suffolk in the finale knocks the Blue Jays out of playoff contention as USJ wraps up the year with an overall record of 11-16 and 4-7 mark in the conference.
Match 1 - USJ 0, Simmons 3
The opening set against the Simmons College Sharks was tighly contested as both teams were deadlocked at 13-13 halfway through. Simmons, though, would follow with an ensuing 5-0 run to take control of the opener and build an 18-13 advantage. USJ cut into the lead and made it 18-16, but were unable to get any closer as the Sharks took the first set 25-19.
Simmons would lead throughout the entire second set. They raced out to an early 10-5 lead and never looked back on their way to another 25-19 set victory. USJ would make things interesting when they cut the lead to 17-15, but another late surge by the Sharks sealed the set win.
USJ held the early edge in the third set after building an 8-4 lead. However, the Sharks would punch back once again and responded in a big way, rebounding to overtake USJ and the lead 15-9. That would be all the momentum Simmons would need as they cruised to a 25-14 third set victory and took the match 3-0.
Freshman Jasmine Buckley (Beacon, NY) and senior Cassandra Grimaldi (Manchester, CT) led the way offensively for the Blue Jays with five kills apiece. Sophomore setter Brenna Miller (McCleary, WA) facilitated the offense and finished with 16 assists.
Defensively, Miller led the way with nine digs and Buckley added eight. Grimaldi posted the lone block for USJ in the match with a block solo.
Match 2 - USJ 0, Suffolk 3
The Blue Jays started off strong in the second match against Suffolk. After it was tied 6-6, USJ scored four straight points to build a 10-6 edge and would maintain a 4-5 point lead up to 18-14. However, the Rams stormed back and tied it 19-19 and used a late surge which propelled the hosts to a 25-21 first set victory.
Suffolk jumped out to an early 10-2 lead to open the second stanza. This time, the Blue Jays would play catch up and pulled the score within five, 18-13. They would keep chipping away at the lead and eventually were within one, 22-21, and then tied it at 23-all and 24-all. However, Suffolk would eventually break free at the end and posted back-back-back points to earn a 26-24 second set win and take a 2-0 lead in the "win-and-in" match.
The Rams carried the momentum over into the third set and scored the first seven points to take an early 7-0 lead. They would build their lead to 11-5, but USJ didn't quit and came charging back to make it a one-point set, 19-18. That would be as close as USJ would get though as the Rams didn't allow another Blue Jay point and closed out the set 25-18 to win the match 3-0.
Buckley paced USJ offensively in the second match, finishing the finale with a team-high 10 kills. Junior Hannah Lemek (Bristol, CT) also chipped in with nine kills for the Blue Jays in the setback. Miller once again ran the offense and posted 29 assists in match two.
Defensively, sophomore Carly Ruzbasan (Torrington, CT) had an impressive match and led the team with 15 digs. Miller and Buckley added eight, respectively. Grimaldi was a force at the net and posted three block solos and a pair of block assists.
The pair of losses concludes the 2016 volleyball season for the USJ Blue Jays as they miss out on the GNAC post-season tournament for the second consecutive season.