Purple Knights win Union Invitational, Moore named MVP while reaching 1,000-dig milestone

Purple Knights win Union Invitational, Moore named MVP while reaching 1,000-dig milestone

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. - The Saint Michael's College women's volleyball team won a pair of 3-2 matches on Saturday to claim the Union (N.Y.) College Invitational crown, and junior Natalie Moore (Burnt Hills, N.Y./Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake) became the fifth player in school history with 1,000 career digs. Moore was named tournament most valuable player while joining senior Candace Washington (New Carrollton, Md./Parkdale) on the all-tournament team.

During an invitational held in Viniar Athletic Center, within 15 miles of Moore's home, the Purple Knights improved to 4-1 by defeating the State University of New York at Cortland, 3-2 (18-25, 25-23, 19-25, 25-17, 15-7), and the previously undefeated hosts, 3-2 (25-23, 22-25, 25-21, 19-25, 15-8). SUNY Cortland is 3-7, while the Dutchwomen are 8-1.

With 28 digs in the opener, Moore reached the 1,000-dig plateau in her 48th career match. While finishing the weekend with 1,034 for her career, she passed Katie Walsh '13 (997) and Katie Herb '04 (1,006) to take over fourth in program history. Moore is only 26 shy of Stephanie Robbins '05 for third place. With eight blocks on Saturday and 22 for the weekend, Washington vaulted into seventh in school annals at 158 and is within 11 of the top five.

Senior Kelsey Flaherty (Cold Spring, N.Y./Haldane) posted 13 kills and eight digs against SUNY Cortland, while Washington had 12 kills en route to hitting .450. Junior Megan Mulvaney (Smithtown, N.Y./Smithtown East) notched seven kills and five blocks, classmate Catie Weller (Smithtown, N.Y./Smithtown West) posted 29 assists and 16 digs, and Moore collected five assists in addition to her 28 digs. Sophomore McKenzie McNamara (Pembroke, Mass./Pembroke) added four blocks, and first-year Sarah Rodgers (Cheshire, Conn./Cheshire) tacked on three aces.

The Red Dragons led 8-6 in set No. 1 before scoring five straight points to pull away, never again leading by fewer than three points, and SUNY Cortland overcame a 20-12 deficit in the second set to knot the score at 23 before Flaherty dropped a kill and a Red Dragon attack error ensued.

SUNY Cortland put together a mid-set 10-4 run to slowly pull away in the third set and nab a 2-1 edge, but the Purple Knights employed a 7-0 run to snap a 3-3 tie early in the next set before leading by as many as 11 points. First-year Mairin King (Melrose, Mass./Mystic Valley Regional Charter School) had three blocks in that pivotal run alone, and Mulvaney added two kills and a block.

An 8-0 run in the deciding fifth set allowed Saint Michael's to overcome a 2-1 hole, aided by six Red Dragon attack errors, and a kill and block from Washington. SUNY Cortland never again drew closer than five, and Rodgers' ace clinched the comeback victory.

Flaherty posted 17 kills, eight digs and three aces against Union to spark a well-balanced attack. Washington notched eight kills and six blocks, Mulvaney had eight kills and four blocks, while sophomore Megan Priester (Dover, N.H./Dover) totaled eight kills. King collected six kills, and Weller posted 43 assists and 11 digs. Moore turned in 30 digs and two aces.

The Purple Knights led by as many as six points during the opening set before twice overcoming a one-point deficit in the later stages with a closing 5-3 run, as King dropped kills for the 24th and 25th points. Union led 10-5 before the teams played through seven ties in the second half of the second set, but the hosts scored four of the last five points.

In a third set that featured seven ties by the time it was 12-12, Saint Michael's scored four of the last six points, with Mulvaney picking up two kills and Priester notching a clinching kill. The visitors led 6-1 in set No. 4 before yielding a 6-0 run, and the Dutchwomen later took control by snapping a 14-all tie with a 9-1 stretch. In an 8-6 fifth set, Priester's kill kicked off a match-ending 7-2 run, with Flaherty adding two kills, including at match point.

The Purple Knights play their fifth consecutive match against a non-conference New York school when they host SUNY Plattsburgh on Wednesday at 7 p.m.