WEST HAVEN, Conn. – The seventh-seeded Saint Anselm College volleyball team saw its first-ever showing in the NCAA Tournament come to an end in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II East Region Championship, as second-seeded Molloy College rallied from two sets down to defeat the Hawks, 23-25, 18-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-9, on Thursday at Charger Gymnasium.
Saint Anselm, which was appearing in the national tournament for the first time in its 31st year, sees its season come to an end with a 16-13 record. Molloy (26-5) advances to face sixth-seeded American International College in the semifinals after the Yellow Jackets outlasted third-seeded LIU Post in five sets in the first match of the day.
Three student-athletes were in double figures in kills for the Hawks, led by 14 kills from senior Katy Teets. Senior Amanda Williams and sophomore Catherine McCarthy each contributed 13 kills, while Jewel Hays posted 48 assists. Senior Danielle Isbell paced the team with 17 digs and was joined in double digits by Hays with 12 and Teets with 10.
Molloy's Carly Banks led the match with 21 kills, Kacey Affrunti had 15 and Hailey Wehr added 10 for the Lions. Setter Sophia Smith handed out 54 assists and libero Dakota O'Neill was the lone Molloy player in double figures in digs, finishing with a match-high 33. Wehr added a match-best seven total blocks.
In the early stages of the first set, Molloy used a run of five-straight points to take an 8-3 advantage. The Lions later built up a 16-9 lead before the Hawks battled back to tie it at 19-19, as Williams had four kills to help Saint Anselm tie it up. The teams were tied at 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23 late in the set, but a service error and a block by Williams and Holly Manchester gave the first set to the Hawks, 25-23.
Five-straight points on Isbell's serve were part of a 6-0 run early in the second that helped Saint Anselm erase a 5-1 deficit. A 15-11 lead for the Hawks was the largest of the set until Saint Anselm won seven of the final eight points to take a two-sets-to-none lead. Teets had two kills late in the set and was in on a block with Manchester on set point.
Midway through the third, Molloy called timeout trailing 14-10 following a Hays ace and an attack error by the Lions. Out of the stoppage, the Lions went on a 7-2 run to take a slender 17-16 advantage. Consecutive Banks kills stretched Molloy's lead to 23-19 and the Lions brought up set points at 24-20. Saint Anselm saved two of the four set points before Molloy sent the match to a fourth set.
The Lions erased an 8-3 deficit early in the fourth with an 8-0 run, predominantly on the serve of Emily Meyer. Williams ended the drought with a kill and the score remained tight until Molloy won five consecutive points, three on kills by Affrunti, to go ahead 22-15. Trailing 23-16, the Hawks climbed all the way back to within one, 23-22, using a combination of kills by Williams and McCarthy and attack errors by the Lions. With their lead cut to a single point, the Lions took a timeout and sent the match the distance on kills by Banks and Devon Hagerstrom out of the pause.
Williams opened the decider with a kill but that was the only lead for the Hawks in the final set. After trailing 6-3, a pair of Teets kills in quick succession helped Saint Anselm get within a point on the side switch at 8-7. Banks recorded two kills and Wehr was in on two blocks as part of a decisive 5-0 run following a Molloy timeout that coincided with the change of sides. The Hawks cut a six-point deficit to four, 13-9, before the Lions finished off their come-from-behind victory on a kill by Wehr and a block by Wehr and Hagerstrom.
The match brought an end to the careers of Saint Anselm's four seniors, Teets, Williams, Isbell and Amanda Bickford, and junior Riley Grussing, who will graduate in May. The group helped the Hawks to a 59-48 record over the last four seasons, making the senior class the winningest in program history since the Class of 2002. Saint Anselm also made a pair of Northeast-10 Conference Tournament appearances in the last four seasons and posted the program's first-ever win in the NE10 Volleyball Championship earlier this season.