SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – On the second day of action at the 2021 Springfield College Invitational, the Brandeis University volleyball team split a pair of matches. The Judges fell to Keene State College, 3-0, but defeated Westfield State University by the same score. Brandeis now owns a 2-2 overall record this season.
In the opening match against Keene State, the Owls won 25-19, 25-17, 25-18, leading for most of the first two sets. The Judges came alive in the third, which featured nine ties and four lead changes, but after Brandeis tied the set at 12-12, KSC went on a 5-1 run and never trailed again.
Brandeis was paced by rookie outside hitter Lara Verstovsek (Bellaire, Texas / Episcopal), who had 11 kills and 14 digs for her first career double-double. Junior outside hitter Amelia Oppenheimer (The Woodlands, Texas/The Woodlands) added seven kills, while senior middle hitter Emerson White (Lexington, Ky./Sayre) had two solo blocks. Defensively, sophomore Ella Pereira (Redondo Beach, Calif./Rolling Hills Prep) had a team-high 18 digs, tied for match-high honors. First-year setter Ines Grom-Mansenecal (Cincinnati, Ohio/Wyoming) recorded 26 assists. While the kills in the match were relatively close, 36-34, in favor of Keene State, the Owls outhit Brandeis, .282 to .087, and had the advantage in service aces (8-4) and blocks (7-3).
Against Westfield State, the Judges were able to pull out three close sets, 25-21, 25-20, 25-23. The first set was a set of runs, with Brandeis jumping out to a 5-1 lead before WSU evened things at 5-all. Neither team was able to pull away until late in the set, with Brandeis going on a 10-3 run that turned a 14-12 deficit into a 22-17 lead on the serve of Pereira. The Judges never trailed in the second set, scoring five in a row on Verstovsek's serve to turn a 4-4 set into a 9-4 edge. The Owls closed within 19-17 late, but Oppenheimer served six in a row, including a pair of service aces, to get within match point before closing it out on a WSU service error. The final set was another one of runs, with Brandeis scoring eight of the first nine points before Westfield did the same to tie it up at 9-all. The set was still tied at 14 when Brandeis scored four in a row to get to 18-14, but the Owls responded again with six straight to take a 20-18 lead. Verstovsek answered with a kill, sparking a 6-1 run that made it 24-21. After WSU fought off two straight match points, Grom-Mansenecal and Newberg blocked the match-winning point.
Verstovsek led all players in the match with 12 kills, one shy of her career best. Six of her 12 kills came in the first set. Newberg added nine kills and four block assists, while White and senior Stephanie Borr (Westfield, N.J./Westfield) had five kills each. Pereira added 15 digs, while Grom-Mansenecal had 29 assists, four kills, four service aces and two block assists.
For her efforts, averaging 8.7 assists, 2.0 digs, 1.0 kills, a .417 hitting percentage, and 0.60 service aces per set during the tournament, Grom-Mansenecal earned her first career All-Tournament honors.
Brandeis returns to action on Thursday evening, September 9, when they play host to Emerson College.