New Hampshire volleyball advances to America East final

DURHAM, N.H. - Alyson Coler (Monte Sereno, Calif.), the conference Player of the Year, tied an America East Championships record with 27 kills to lead the top-seeded University of New Hampshire women's volleyball team to a 3-2 victory against the University at Albany in Saturday afternoon's opening semifinal match at Lundholm Gymnasium. The game scores were 30-18, 24-30, 30-24, 25-30 and 15-7.

UNH won its 12th consecutive match to improve to 22-10 overall and advanced to the conference title game for the fifth time in six years. The Wildcats won their only league title in 1998. They will play No. 3 Stony Brook University, a 3-2 (30-25, 30-28, 26-30, 27-30, 15-8) victor against second-seeded Northeastern University, in Sunday's one o'clock championship game at Lundholm Gymnasium.

Albany (16-15) opened up a 4-1 lead in the decisive fifth game and after the teams exchanged a point, the Wildcats reeled off eight consecutive points to build a 10-5 advantage. The teams again exchanged points to advance the score to 12-7. A kill by UNH's Lauren Knight (Centerville, Mass.; 12 kills) increased the difference to 13-7, then Coler ended the match with consecutive kills.

In Game 1, UNH led 10-9 and won 13 of the next 16 points to build a 23-12 advantage. The Wildcats, led by Coler's seven kills, utilized a strong team hitting percentage (.429) to take a 1-0 lead.

Game 2 also remained close until Albany turned a 23-21 lead into a 28-21 cushion behind the effort of Alexis Bowens, who recorded five of her 11 kills in the second game.

New Hampshire raced out to a 6-0 lead in Game 3 and the Great Danes never trimmed the deficit below four points the rest of the way. Coler led the 'Cat attack with six kills. Natasha Otte (Plymouth, N.H.) recorded four of her nine kills in the third game and finished the match with five blocks.

Albany showed its resilience by taking a 7-1 lead in Game 4. The Great Danes held a 21-13 advantage but the Wildcats rallied to within 24-22. Alissa Gibbs and Eileen Rodriguez, both of whom registered seven kills in the fourth game, combined to fend off the Wildcats' rally and force a decisive fifth game.

Anne Davis (Groveland, Ill.) quarterbacked the UNH offense with 50 assists and also contributed defensively with 19 digs. Sasha Scott (N. Branford, Conn.), the conference's Defensive Specialist of the Year, was credited with a match-high 20 digs.

New Hampshire swept the regular-season series from Stony Brook. The Wildcats recorded a 3-1 home victory Oct. 12 and defeated the Seawolves 3-0 in New York on Nov. 1.

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