WEST HARTFORD, Conn. - Junior Aminah Tsonga (Plainville, Conn.) posted her second consecutive double-double of the season, but the Elms College (EC) Blazers were too much too handle and spoiled the University of Saint Joseph (USJ) volleyball home opener Thursday evening inside the O'Connell Center defeating the Blue Jays in four sets, 3-1. With the setback, the Blue Jays slip to 2-3 on the season, while the Blazers improve to 4-3.
Score: Elms 3, Saint Joseph 1 (14-25, 25-21, 25-19, 25-11)
Records: Elms (4-3) | Saint Joseph (2-3)
The Blue Jays got off to a roaring start in the opening set and raced out to an early lead, 7-2, following a kill from freshman Shannon Carey (Bayport, N.Y.). USJ would maintain a comfortable advantage throughout the entire set and after three straight powerful service aces from Tsonga, the Blue Jays were ahead, 14-6. They would cruise to an opening-set victory, 25-14, closing the set with a 4-0 run to jump out to an early 1-0 lead.
Elms used the break between sets to regroup though, and came out in the second with some adjustments that gave the Blue Jays trouble for the remainder of the match. The second set was a battle back-and-forth throughout that saw the score tied nine different times. With the Blue Jays trailing, 16-14, sophomore Nina Lestrud (Torrington, Conn.) came though with a clutch kill followed by a block assist with Tsonga to knot the match, 16-16. Freshman Nicole Albert (Meriden, Conn.) stepped up and notched an ace to give USJ the lead, 17-16, but then a pair of kills from Elms' sophomore Jaylianne Ramos (Toa Alta, P.R.) swung the match in favor of the visitors, igniting a 9-4 run to close the set. A Ramos kill capped the set, 25-21, to tie things up 1-1.
From there on out, it was all Blazers as they raced out to an early lead in the third set and never let up. Back-to-back service aces from junior Hayley Castanos (Santa Ana, Calif.) built a 9-2 edge and the Blue Jays could never recover. USJ pulled within 16-11 after a three-point run off the serve of Carey, but that would be as close as they would get for the remainder of the set as Elms ran away, 25-19, to take a 2-1 lead.
Elms once again did its damage early in the fourth set jumping out to an 11-4 lead to make it difficult for the Blue Jays to try and claw back into it. Four straight points by the Blazers capped by a kill from freshman Natalia Caraballo (Arlington, Texas) extended their lead to 15-5 halfway through the set. The visitors would keep their foot on the pedal and close the set with five consecutive points highlighted by two more kills from Caraballo to take the fourth and final set comfortably, 25-11, and the match 3-1.
Tsonga paced the Blue Jays with her second double-double of the season in as many matches finishing with 10 kills and 13 digs. She hit a team-best .286 in the setback and also added four service aces. Carey added six kills for the Blue Jays, while Albert and freshman Nyah Young (Swansea, Mass.) facilitated USJ's offense with 12 and 11 assists, respectively. Freshman libero Natalia Rabassa also chipped in with 10 digs.
The Blazers had three players finish with double-digit kills led by Caraballo who posted a match-high 14. Ramos and sophomore Alanys Cruz (Humancao, P.R.) each finished with 10 with Ramos posting a match-best .381 hitting percentage. Junior setter Dakota Stewart (Victoria, Texas) was excellent in the win for Elms registering a match-best 36 assists. Defensively, senior Hannah Adams (Deerfield, Mass.) led Elms with seven digs.
The Blue Jays hit just .024 as a team compared to .193 for the Blazers. Elms logged 12 service aces to USJ's 11 and the Blue Jays won the dig battle, 39-27.
USJ opens up Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) play this weekend with a tri-match at Colby-Sawyer on Saturday. The Blue Jays will go up against the Chargers in a GNAC match at 12:00 p.m. before taking on non-conference opponent Maine-Presque Isle at 2:00 p.m.