Neutral territory favors the Pirates

After playing only four of its 10 matches in front of a home crowd, Seton Hall’s women’s volleyball team dropped two games under .500 after a loss to Princeton University on Tuesday night.

Now 4-6 on the year, the team’s record does not reflect the hand that it has been dealt. Head coach Allison Yaeger’s squad had to kick off the season with three straight three-match series: one in New York, one back home in South Orange and one in California.

The biggest surprise is where the Pirates have proven to be successful. As with most teams, road matches can be the biggest challenge. Starting the season at 0-2 in their opponents’ gym, the Pirates have been no different. However, it has been a different story when Seton Hall plays at a neutral site.

As Seton Hall has participated in the Blue & White Classic, the Seton Hall Classic and Thunderdome Classic, the teams have had to go head-to-head in neutral territory. Without a home or away designation, the team has found a string of victories. At 3-1 in these matches, it could just be that the Pirates find themselves more comfortable in front of a neutral crowd.

Seton Hall chalked up those three wins against North Dakota State, Niagara, and Sacred Heart by the scores of 3-1, 3-0, and 3-0, respectively. Dropping the first set against North Dakota State, the Pirates went on to win three straight and the match. Each victory, all in neutral territory, has come in dominant fashion as the Pirates would win three straight sets to seal the deal. Regardless of the final score, several Pirates have stepped up when needed most.

A presence in all matches to date, especially in Seton Hall’s three wins, has been Abby Thelen. Recently surpassing 1,000 career kills, the outside hitter is a crucial piece to Seton Hall’s offense. Thelen had 18 kills and seven digs against North Dakota State, 14 kills and 9 digs against Niagara, and six kills over Sacred Heart.

Racking up serious numbers in the assist column have been Maggie Cvelbar and Sophia Coffey. In those same matches, Cvelbar recorded 19, 19, and 14 assists. As for Coffey, she had seen 21, 12, and 19. Both setters have been pivotal to Seton Hall’s offensive success.

Defensively, Haylee Gasser and Amanda Rachwal have dominated the net. Leading the team in total blocks, Gasser has earned 26 and Rachwal has 31. Each over 6-feet tall, Gasser and Rachwal are seemingly involved on every play that enters the defensive zone.

Another notable stat has come by way of team effort. The Pirates refuse to commit errors on the serve. Despite being bested in total aces, 38-45, Seton Hall has seen just 48 errors. Opponents have nearly doubled that with 86 errors.

Next up on the schedule for the Pirates is the Hofstra Invitational, which begins on Sept. 14. If nothing else, the team should be able to bank on performing well in neutral territory once again.

Anthony Talarico can be reached at anthony.talarico@student.shu.edu or on Twitter @ant_tal.

Author: Anthony Talarico

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