Volleyball wins quarterfinal 3-1 over SNHU

The+New+Haven+womens+volleyball+team+celebrates+after+winning+over+Southern+New+Hampshire+University%2C+Nov.+16%2C+West+Haven.

Photo courtesy of Tyler Wells

The New Haven women’s volleyball team celebrates after winning over Southern New Hampshire University, Nov. 16, West Haven.

Tyler Wells, Associate Editor

The New Haven women’s volleyball team advanced in the Northeast-10 (NE-10) Conference tournament after a 3-1 victory over seventh-seeded Southern New Hampshire University in the quarterfinal on Tuesday night. The win moves the Chargers one step closer in the hunt for their first conference championship since 2017.

As the second seed, New Haven entered the match as the clear favorite and showed why. The Chargers frontline proved to be too much for Southern New Hampshire, as New Haven’s proficient striking found holes in the defense.

New Haven’s Jessica Akiona spikes a ball against Southern New Hampshire University, Nov. 16, West Haven. (Photo courtesy of Tyler Wells)

The first set went back-and-forth early as each team tried finding a rhythm. With the score at 16-15 for New Haven late in the set, senior right-side Jessica Akiona’s three kills helped lead a 5-1 charge to take a 21-16 lead. One kill was an overpowering spike that sent a Penmen defender to the ground; this put Southern New Hampshire on their heels the rest of the match, and kills from freshman outside hitter Macy Brown and senior middle hitter Asiya Way helped secure the set for New Haven 25-20.

Way returned to a bigger role on the floor after an injury limited her off the bench during the last week of the season. Her presence was felt throughout the match, giving New Haven an extra boost that will bode well in the next round.

In the second set, the Chargers wasted little time in building off the win. The New Haven offense looked fluid, putting pressure on the Penmen defense that they couldn’t keep up with. Five kills and a service ace from Brown led the Chargers to a comfortable win, taking the set 25-17.

However, Southern New Hampshire refused to go quietly, as they controlled the flow of the third set. The Penmen took advantage of a handful of uncharacteristic errors by New Haven to open a large 21-13 lead. New Haven began to flip a switch late in the set, outscoring the Penmen 8-3 to cut into the lead, but this wouldn’t be enough as the Penmen avoided the straight sets sweep and forced a fourth.

The third set loss was a wake-up call for New Haven and they quickly regained momentum in the fourth. A combination of a motivated New Haven team and a tired Penmen side led to a dominant showing. Two kills from Akiona and one from junior outside hitter Emily Barry gave New Haven an early lead. Then, everyone got involved as kills from all over the court opened an insurmountable lead for New Haven.

Finally, an exclamation point from sophomore middle blocker Emily Smith closed the game and gave New Haven the win.

New Haven’s Asiya Way spikes a ball against Southern New Hampshire University, Nov. 16, West Haven. (Photo courtesy of Tyler Wells)

Way finished with a career-high 10 kills on a .500 hitting percentage, while Brown led the team with 14 kills. Barry and Akiona each added 13 and 12 kills of their own, and Smith contributed seven. Way also was a force defensively, recording a match-high six blocks. Freshman setter Sophia Leon-Tabor, coming off winning the Northeast-10’s Setter and Rookie of the Week awards, dished out 47 assists.

With the win, New Haven improves to 21-8 (10-3 NE-10) and advances to the semifinals. Southern New Hampshire ends their season at 12-11 (8-5 NE-10) but look to the future with the youth in their program.

The Chargers will face third-seeded Stonehill College in the semifinals, a tough draw at this stage in the playoffs. Though New Haven ranks higher than Stonehill in the conference, the Skyhawks sit atop the regional rankings for the NCAA playoffs.

The two sides have played twice this season, with Stonehill taking the first match 3-1 and New Haven winning the most recent match 3-2 on Nov. 6. More information on the matchup can be found at NewHavenChargers.com.