Gators Top Mitchell 3-0, Even Record at 4-4 After Busy Week

NEW LONDON, Conn. – Pine Manor topped Mitchell college by a 3-0 (25-20, 25-17 and 25-21) margin Thursday, earning its third road victory of the season and evening its overall record at 4-4. The win was a welcome result for the Gators who were faced with the difficult task of competing in five matches over the last seven days.

"It's always good to pick up a win on the road," said head coach Mike Murphy following Thursday's victory against Mitchell. "It was nice to grab another win before we head back into conference play," said Murphy. "We played well against a scrappy team and I think that it will help us get in the right frame of mind as a group as we look ahead."

Pine Manor was paced once again by significant contributions from its freshman class, as Imara Jackson (Malden, Mass./Mystic Valley Charter) totaled a team-high 8 kills while providing strong play at the net. Jackson, along with Junior Jennifer Gross (Coral Springs, Fla./Coral Glades), who tallied 6 kills on the evening, proved to be the difference during the first set, as the Gators secured a 25-20 win.

In the second set, Freshman setter Megan Patch (Bethpage, Tenn./Red Boiling Springs) contributed three of her four service aces while serving for nine straight points to help Pine Manor capture a 25-17 set victory. Patch would also finish the night with 20 set assists.

Continuing her superb Sophomore season, Alie Johnston (Winnipeg, MB/River East Collegiate) contributed 7 kills and put away the final point of the night during the third and final set as Pine Manor tallied four straight points to break a 21-21 tie to capture the set 25-21, and the match 3-0.

Stephanie McKeon (Ledyard, Conn./Ledyard) led Mitchell College with eight kills, as the Mariners dropped to 3-4 on the season.

Thursday night's win over Mitchell College was the second road victory for Pine Manor in a busy week and a half of action that began with a tough 3-0 (11-25, 15-25, 23-25) road loss at the hands of UMass-Dartmouth on Thursday, September 16.

After dropping the first two sets of the match, Pine Manor stayed with the Corsairs throughout the third set, only to fall by a slim 25-23 margin. Johnston led the way for the Gators, tallying eight kills, while Jackson added 7 kills and Gross contributed 5 kills for the Gators. Freshman Ashley Carusone (Nashua, NH/Nashua North) had a team-high 9 digs in the loss.

With the victory, UMass-Dartmouth ran its record to a perfect 9-0, as Junior Allie Mastrocola (Swansea, Mass./Case), 9 kills, and Senior Eleni Tsaparakis (Norwalk, Conn./Norwalk), 4 kills, 3 service aces, helped lead a balanced attack to victory.

Despite the disappointment of the loss to UMass-Dartmouth, the Gators received good news during the week of September 13, as Freshman setter Megan Patch was recognized for her strong play during the opening week of the season with a selection to the weekly Honor Roll by the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC).

Eager to move on from the loss to UMass-Dartmouth, Pine Manor shifted focus to the first part of its GNAC schedule, traveling down the road on Saturday September 18 to nearby Lasell College for a pair of GNAC contests and the Gators first tri-match of the season.

In its first match of the day, Pine Manor defeated St. Joseph's College of Maine, 3-2 (25-18, 25-21, 15-25, 17-25, 15-11). The win secured Pine Manors first GNAC win of the season and the programs first conference victory since the 2008 season.

In the first set Pine Manor raced to an early 11-1 lead, ultimately capturing the first set 25-18. Johnston led a varied Pine Manor attack with a team-high 13 kills and 7 service aces, as the Gators also received strong contributions from Carusone and Jackson, each of whom finished with 9 kills on the day and helped Pine Manor taking a 2-0 lead after 25-21 victory in the second set.

However, the Monks were not content to go quietly. Lead by Freshman Brooke Dyer's (Lebanon, ME/St. Thomas Aquinas) 11 kills and 2 service aces St. Joseph's battled back to capture the third set by a convincing 25-15 margin and the fourth set, 25-17, to force a deciding fifth set.

The Gators would respond in the fifth set as Johnston, Gross, who finish with 8 kills, and Patch, who would finish with 35 set assists, rallied Pine Manor to a 15-11 set victory to capture the match, 3-2.

"It was great to get off to a strong start in our first conference game," said head coach Mike Murphy, "they were a strong team, they fought back, but we responded by playing some really determined volleyball."

The Gators didn't have long to savor the win over St. Joseph's (ME) as GNAC rival Lasell College was waiting in the wings.

Pine Manor would gain a 23-21 edge in a back and forth first set but it was Lasell who would celebrate the set victory 29-27 behind the strength of Danielle Drapeau (Biddeford, Maine/Biddeford), who finished with a team high 10 kills and 3 solo blocks, and Eileen Barrett (Ludlow, Mass./Ludlow) who contributed 7 kills for the Lasers.

The second set was also a seesaw affair, but Lasell pulled away for a 25-16 victory despite the efforts of Johnston, 11 kills, Jackson, 6 kills, Gross, 5 kills and 13 digs, and Patch, who finished with 18 set assists.

In the third and final set Lasell pulled away for good, taking a commanding 25-6 victory, dropping Pine Manor to a GNAC record of 1-1 and a 3-3 record overall.

"We would have liked to get two wins," said Murphy. "We're a young team and this was our first tri-match of the year. In all I think it was a good experience and it will help us as we move on. We were a little banged up by the end of the second match, maybe a little fatigued, but we took away a lot of positives from the day."

On Tuesday September 21, Pine Manor would return home for a conference match-up with defending GNAC Champion Emerson College. Pine Manor looked to rebound from its Saturday afternoon loss at the hands of Lasell, but in the end Emerson proved to be to much for the Gators, cruising to a 3-0 road victory (9-25,13-25,13-25).

"They are a strong team," said Murphy of Emerson. "We wanted to see where we were at and I think it was another good test for our group. If you look at the success Emerson has had, that is where we would like to be as a program, and I think we took another step toward that by competing well against a strong opponent."

Fresh off Thursday night's victory over Mitchell College, Pine Manor will look to even its GNAC record at 2-2 when it hosts Norwich University this Saturday, September 25 at 12:00 pm.

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