CHICOPEE, Mass. – Top-seeded Elms College defeated second-seeded Lesley University, 3-0 (25-7, 25-15, 25-15), in the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) Championship match at Picknelly Arena Sunday afternoon.
The Blazers set the tone early, racing to a 9-2 lead in the opening set behind aces from freshman Dakota Stewart (Victoria, Texas) and junior Danielle Redding (Las Vegas, N.V.). Freshmen Ayanna Meadows(Springfield, Mass.) and Hayley Castanos (Santa Ana, Calif.) tallied two kills apiece to help the Blazers build a 16-5 lead. Leading 19-7, Stewart served up four aces and Meadows slammed two kills to give Elms the 1-0 advantage.
Elms maintained a slight edge of Lesley in the second set until Lynx errors gave the Blazers an 11-5 lead. A pair of kills from Redding put Elms on top 13-7, but Lesley responded with an ace from sophomore Cassidy Wygonik (Madison, Conn.) and a kill from senior Anni Abbruzzese (Croton de Hudson, N.Y.) to trim the gap to 16-13. The Blazers regained control with a solo block from freshman Hannah Pichardo (South Glen Falls, N.Y.) and a kill from Stewart to develop a 19-14 lead. Elms outscored Lesley, 6-1, down the stretch to capture the 2-0 lead.
The Blazers jumped ahead 7-2 in the third set on four kills and a double block from Pichardo and Meadows. A kill from Abbruzzese closed the gap to 9-5, but Elms rattled off a 7-3 run, featuring a pair of kills from Redding, to create a 16-8 scoreboard. Lesley capitalized on Blazer errors, along with a slam from senior Kaylee Deluga (Dennis, Mass.), to pull with four, 16-12. Elms pulled away with a 7-1 run, paced by kills from Castanos, Meadows and Redding, en route to the 25-15 set victory.
"It was such an accomplishment to get to this game, even though we didn't come up with the win, I couldn't be more proud of this team," said senior captain Allie Charron. "The journey up until this game wasn't easy but it was worth it. We came into this game as prepared as we could be and put it all out on the court, and in the end that's all that you can do. I am very excited to see what next years team is going to accomplish going forward."
Stewart received All-Tournament Most Valuable Player honors, while Redding and Pichardo joined Stewart on the All-Tournament Team. Redding notched a match-high nine kills with seven digs and three aces, while Meadows chipped in seven kills. Castanos recorded six kills off the bench, and Stewart served up a match-high seven aces with a match-high 23 assists and 13 digs for her 18th double-double of the season.
Abbruzese and Deluga claimed All-Tournament Team honors for the Lynx. Abbruzzese tallied a team-high six kills with six digs, while Deluga added three kills and six digs. Wygonik snared a match-high 14 digs with three kills, and freshman Tallin Goldberg (Merrimack, N.H.) totaled 12 assists in the loss.
The Blazers (19-9) will await their seeding for the 2017 NCAA DIII Regional Championship. The Championship Selection Show will be held Monday afternoon. Lesley completes the 2017 season with a 13-15 record.
2017 NECC Women's Volleyball All-Tournament Team
MVP: Dakota Stewart (Elms)
Danielle Redding (Elms)
Hannah Pichardo (Elms)
Anni Abbruzzese (Lesley)
Kaylee Deluga (Lesley)
Heidy Benitez (Southern Vermont)
Charlene Landry (Becker)