The Seton Hall volleyball team’s first game in Walsh Gymnasium was filled with a myriad of emotions as a tough Buffalo team put in a hard fought battle Friday, with the Pirates ultimately prevailing in five sets.
Seton Hall head coach Allison Yeager threw her arms up in frustration at times and Dominique Mason stomped her foot after a kill as emotional highs and lows were felt inside Walsh Gymnasium for the first time since last school year.
The Hall was up by 10 in the first set, however the relentless Buffalo Bulls edged their way back and cut the deficit to one. The Pirates were pushed, but they responded, winning the first set by a score of 25-23.
Looking to build off the momentum created in the end of the first set, Buffalo came out of the gate strong in the second. Back-to-back aces by Buffalo propelled 4-0 and 6-0 runs that were initiated by dominant offense and a Hall service error. From there, Sharay Barnes and Haylee Gasser tightened up defense at the net by blocking multiple shots, but their efforts were not enough to combat the Bulls.
Yaeger displayed her frustration with this set after the game.
“When you do things at practice and everything look so good and smooth at practice day after day after day after day, and then you come on [the court] and it doesn’t look the way that it does look at practice, it just gets frustrating at times,” Yaeger said.
The Hall’s third set was a must-win in order to break the energy that Buffalo created in the second. In the set, Barnes and Madison Salkowski were forces at the net, redirecting the ball into the Bulls’ territory, which helped to tie the score at seven points apiece. A service ace by Abby Thelen forced a timeout from Buffalo, with the Pirates dominating kills and Buffalo piling up service errors thereafter in the third.
The Pirates did not take advantage of their opportunity to put away their opponent in the fourth set, however. A kill by Gasser that gave the Hall a four-point advantage and brought the crowd to cheers with hopes of maintaining their lead were let down when attack errors by the Pirates in the final two plays of the set pushed the game to a fifth and final set.
The fifth set was a back-and-forth battle between the teams, with Dominique Mason recording the kill that gave Seton Hall a hard-fought win in its first home game of 2017.
“I love when Dom [Mason] comes into the game,” Yaeger said. “She brings energy, she’s positive, she gets kills, she goes crazy and everybody feeds off of that. This team would not be who they are if it wasn’t for Dominique Mason.”
Mason finished the game with a stat-line of 15 kills and 5 digs.
In addition to Mason, Thelen’s strong performance of 24 kills and 21 digs was important in leading the Pirates to the win.
“For the most part we really just [needed] to focus on our side of the court,” Thelen said.
Leaving the match, Yeager was happy to see preparation for Buffalo pay off on the court.
“We watched film on them from last weekend and they looked stronger and tougher and they’re big and physical,” Yeager said. “We knew coming into this game they were going to get blocks, we knew that they were going to put balls away just because of their physicality. We stepped up to the challenge and I’m glad we took care of business in five [sets].”
Even though the Pirates only have four games under their belt, three of which are wins, Yaeger stated that the intention with this early season schedule has been to build the Pirates’ RPI, with the primary goal being, as always, a berth in the Big East Tournament.
“We’re finally old, we’re not young anymore and we’re looking to get that NCAA bid like we did in 2014,” Yaeger said.
The Pirates’ next game is Saturday against Rutgers at 7:30pm in Walsh Gymnasium.
Andrea Keppler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @keppler_andrea.