Falcons Win First NE10 Volleyball Championship Since 2006.
WALTHAM, Mass. – After a stunning comeback from a 2-0 deficit, for the first time since 2006 and the tenth time overall, the Bentley Falcons are the Northeast-10 Conference women's volleyball champions.
A kill by senior outside Dani Milner closed out the five-set wins for the Falcons, who secured the conference's automatic qualifier with the hard-fought 16-25, 23-25, 25-20, 25-14, 15-9 victory Saturday night before an fervent crowd at the Dana Center.
"The matchup for the conference championship with AIC was the making of a fairytale," said coach Joey Pacis, the NE10 Coach of the Year for the fourth time. "We had the opportunity to play the team that gave us our only conference loss this season. The kids were very resilient being down two sets and found that spark to get things going our way. It took a tremendous amount of focus and, most importantly heart, to come back and beat a very strong AIC team in five sets."
It wasn't looking good for Pacis' team after two sets and into the third. Bentley gave up 13 points on errors in the opening set and continued to struggle in the second with a .024 hitting percentage. And to start the third, the second-seeded Yellow Jackets jumped out to an 11-5 lead.
The Falcons, 26-5, came alive with five straight points with the charge led by championship MVP and senior middle Rachel Bruno and freshman Ingrid Murphy. Murphy had a kill and two aces while Bruno was involved in two blocks, one a solo and the other shared with Milner.
The 5-0 run grew to 11-2, producing a 16-13 lead. After AIC (14-17) tied the count at 18 apiece, a kill by Murphy and an ace from sophomore Shannon Ngo ignited a closing 7-2 burst that kept the Falcons alive.
Bentley never trailed in the final two sets and the only tie came at 2-2 in the fourth. That set included a 7-1 run that opened a 9-3 lead and a 6-1 burst to close out it out, forcing the decisive fifth.
The Falcons stormed out of the gate in the fifth, taking a 7-0 lead with the run bookended by kills from junior Kirsten Segaline, who paid dividends after being inserted into the lineup in the third.
AIC closed to within 8-5 and 10-8 before the Falcons locked down the match and the championship by scoring five of the last six points. A Murphy kill made it 11-8 and a shared block by Murphy and Bruno brought the NE10 regular season champs within two points of the title. Another Bruno block, her ninth, made it 14-8 and after an AIC point, Milner closed it out.
Murphy had an 11-kill, 10-dig double-double with three aces and Bruno complemented her nine blocks with five kills. Segaline had seven kills and hit .316 after entering the match and Milner finished with 14 digs and seven kills. Senior Xio Lopp recorded 32 assists and had six blocks. The Falcons also received four aces and six blocks from Ngo.
Senior Jana Potic (Belgrade, Serbia) led AIC with 14 kills and 12 digs, and sophomore Amanda Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) made 29 digs.
AIC finished with 12 more kills, 50-38, but hit only .056 against the Falcon D. Bentley made 15 blocks in the match.
The field for the NCAA Division II East Regional will be announced Monday night at 7:30 pm on NCAA.com.
Rachel Bruno, Bentley*
Dani Milner, Bentley
Andrea Serra, AIC
Rachel Dunlavy, Stonehill
Michelle Henwood, Saint Anselm
*Most Valuable Player
ABOUT THE NE10
The NE10 is an association of 14 diverse institutions serving student-athletes across 24 NCAA Division II sports. Together we build brilliant futures by embracing the journey of every student-athlete.
Each year, 4,500 of those student-athletes compete in conference championships in 24 sports, making the NE10 the largest DII conference in the country in terms of sport sponsorship. Leading the way in the classroom, on the field and within the community, the NE10 is proud of its comprehensive program and the experience it provides student-athletes.