WALTHAM, Mass. - Behind a season-high 12 blocks, Western New England University defeated the Brandeis University volleyball team 3-1 to clinch the Eastern College Athletic Conference Division III New England Championship. Set scores were 25-16, 17-25, 25-17 and 25-21. Western New England senior right-side hitter Inna Sergeychik (West Springfield, Mass./West Springfield) was named the tournament's most valuable player.
The Judges moved to 21-14 on the season, the team's first 20-win season since 2007. The Golden Bears moved to 25-7 after defeating Keene State College in the semifinal round. It was Western New England's first ECAC Championship.
The teams battled back-and-forth in the first set before Western New England took advantage of some sloppy hitting from Brandeis. Tied 8-8, the Golden Bears took advantage of 11 hitting errors from the Judges to go on a 17-8 run, clinching the set 25-16. Junior outside hitter Si-Si Hensley (Fullerton, Calif./Troy) led Brandeis, scoring five kills without an error for a .357 hitting percentage.
Behind kills from eight different players, Brandeis bounced back to take the second set, 25-17. Junior setter Yael Einhorn (Cherry Hill, N.J./Cherry Hill East) led the way with 10 assists and one kill.
The two sides traded blows in the third set, and the Golden Bears were again able to make a run midway through the set. Trailing 12-11, Western New England used a combined two kills and three blocks from Sergeychik and junior middle hitter Tyler Singh (Dumont, N.J./Dumont) to close on a 14-5 run and win 25-17.
The fourth set was much of the same. Sergeychik tallied five kills, four digs, and another block assist, and the Golden Bears maintained a 3-4 point lead for most of the set. Sophomore outside hitter Liz Hood (Albuquerque, N.M./Albuquerque Acad.) kept the Judges close with five kills of the team's 11 kills, but Brandeis was unable to get over the hump, losing the set 25-21, and the match.
Hood led Brandeis with 13 kills, while Hensley finished with 11 kills and 13 digs. Sophomore libero Elsie Bernaiche (Plantsville, Conn./Southington) led the Judges with 17 digs, and rookie defensive specialist Amaris Brown (Brooklyn, N.Y./Brooklyn Friends School) added 11 of her own.
Western New England was led by Singh, who had 10 kills, eight block assists and six digs. Sergeychik added eight kills, seven block assists and eight digs, while sophomore libero Grace Kucharski (Avon, Conn./Avon) had a game-high 19 digs.
In its semifinal match, the Golden Bears defeated the Keene State Owls 3-1. As it did in the Championship, Western New England lost the second set against Keene State, but again was able to rebound for a 25-21, 20-25, 25-23 and 25-21 victory. Freshman outside hitter Emily McGran (Lakewood, Ill./Huntley) led the Golden Bears with 11 kills. Sergeychik added nine kills in just 20 attempts, while Kucharski had a game-high 19 digs. The Owls were paced by sophomore libero Sammy Dormio (Leesburg, VA./Loudon County) who had a game-high 16 kills and a team-high 16 digs.