The University of Rhode Island women’s volleyball team improved on their undefeated start Tuesday night when they defeated Northeastern University in four sets, 3-1, to improve to 7-0 on the season.
Before the Rams’ win over Northeastern, head coach Bob Schneck said the competition the Rams have played up to this point is about “medium,” and that “Northeastern will really be our test,” but acknowledged that “They are a young team right now, so we might be catching them at the right time.”
The Rams struck first, winning the first two sets. Northeastern won the third set, 25-22, to attempt a comeback on Rhode Island, but the Rams pulled away and won the decisive fourth match, 26-24. Rhode Island kept composure on the road after Callan Kinnan had 51 assists, making it her sixth career game with at least 50 or more assists. The Rams offense has improved since last season, but Schneck says the defense has been the biggest reason for their best start since 1999.
“What’s going to win us an Atlantic 10 Conference Championship is our passing and defense,” Schneck said. “Since we are still undefeated, the players are trying to protect the wins. I think we can. As long as they can keep it going we’ll have a shot.”
The Rams played their best defense of the season thus far against Northeastern, recording 86 digs in four sets. Rhode Island’s previous high in digs on the year was 79 against Albany. Four players anchored the defense with double-digit digs: junior Lizzy Scanlon led the way with 22 digs and Kinnan and Franki Darnold followed suit with 18 apiece. Junior Cate Seman also chipped in 16 digs.
Darnold, who earned A-10 Student-Athlete of the Week honors this past week, had her fourth double-double in seven games, with 14 kills to accompany her 18 digs.
“When she was a freshman I told her ‘by the time you’re a senior, you’re likely to be one of the best outside hitters in the Atlantic 10,’” Schneck said. “This year I said ‘now is your time’ and that stuck in her head.”
Schneck was quick to point out that it is early in the season and said the team’s focus is on their upcoming hectic home stand. Rhode Island will face three opponents in the span of 25 hours, starting with the New Jersey Institute of Technology at 2 p.m. on Friday, followed by Cincinnati five hours later at 7 p.m. The Rams will oppose Rutgers the next day at 3 p.m. Each of the weekend matchups will be held in Kingston at Frank W. Keaney Gymnasium.