COLCHESTER, Vt. - The Saint Michael's College women's volleyball team opened its season with a 3-1 (25-18, 26-24, 11-25, 28-26) loss to Merrimack College on Friday evening, dropping a pair of two-point decisions during the non-league match between Northeast-10 Conference foes in the Ross Sports Center. The Warriors also began their campaign after qualifying for the past two NE-10 Championships.
Senior Kelsey Flaherty (Cold Spring, N.Y./Haldane) posted 14 kills and seven digs for the hosts, as she is within two kills of becoming the 12th Purple Knight with 600 for a career, and the sixth with 600 kills and 700 digs. Junior Megan Mulvaney (Smithtown, N.Y./Smithtown East) and sophomore Megan Priester (Dover, N.H./Dover) both dropped nine kills, with Mulvaney matching a career high, and senior Candace Washington (New Carrollton, Md./Parkdale) had seven kills, four blocks and two aces. Junior Catie Weller (Smithtown, N.Y./Smithtown West) handed out 39 assists while adding nine digs.
Junior Natalie Moore (Burnt Hills, N.Y./Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake) recorded 35 digs, becoming the seventh player in school annals with 900 for a career. With 920, she passed head coach Kelly Garthwait Mahl '10 (896) for seventh in program history. Sophomore Julia Colasanti (Northville, Mich./Northville) added 10 digs.
First-year Sofia Basauri had 18 kills and 14 digs in her college debut for Merrimack, while junior Juliette McCall posted 14 kills. Sophomore Christina Nye registered 11 kills and 11 digs, junior Tara Stuhr notched 48 assists and 14 digs, and senior Madison Burke tacked on 19 digs.
The Warriors pulled away to take the opening set after four early ties, scoring six of seven points to grab an 11-6 lead. Saint Michael's crept within four three times, including at 17-13, but the visitors responded with the next four points. Behind the service of Weller, the Purple Knights forged a 3-0 edge in set No. 2 before 11 ties ensued. In a 19-all contest, Flaherty posted three straight kills to spark a 4-0 run, and three consecutive Merrimack points were met by a Flaherty kill that made it 24-22. However, Basauri picked up a pair of kills during a closing 4-0 stretch, including at set point.
Saint Michael's scored seven of the first eight points in the third set and, after the visitors trimmed their deficit to 10-6, pulled away with a 14-2 run that featured two kills apiece from Flaherty and Washington. After eight early deadlocks in the fourth set, the Purple Knights slowly eased into a pair of three-point advantages, including when Moore placed an ace to provide her squad with a 21-18 edge. Consecutive points drew the Warriors within one, but the hosts countered with three straight points to make it 24-20 and come within a point of forcing a fifth set. After Merrimack scored the next four points to produce a tie, Mulvaney's kill again had Saint Michael's at set point, but four of the final five points came off the hands of Warriors, including when Basauri clinched the match with a kill.
The Purple Knights break until next weekend, when they head to the Union (N.Y.) College Invitational for four matches between Sept. 11 and 12.