Kelby Carey saw the ball go up and said to herself “just put the ball down.” Moments later, Taylor Payne pointed at Logan Riker and said, “This is for you.”
The first win of the season has never felt so fulfilling.
Carey had the game-winning kill in the decisive fifth set, as the Bobcats outlasted the La Salle Explorers, 16-25, 25-22, 21-25, 25-19, 20-18, Friday night in front of 378 fans in Burt Kahn Court, the most for a home volleyball game since 2006.
“It is a big deal,” said Payne, who had two of her 11 kills in the final set. “Especially on our home court, it means so much more to us and it’s a huge, huge weight off our shoulders.”
The Bobcats faced match point three different times, but fought back after each one. Payne tied the set at 14, while Allen tied it at 15. Samantha Tulskie, who finished with 13 kills for La Salle, hit a ball into the net to tie it at 18.
Three of Carey’s team-high 13 kills came in the last set, which featured 11 ties and six lead changes. Kayla Lawler finished with a season-high 41 assists, freshman Tierra Allen registered 13 kills, Olivia Grattan had nine kills and three different Bobcats were in double-figures for digs.
Riker, the team’s leader in digs per set last season, went down in the third set to injury. Carey, Tracy Wright and Krista Bennett more than filled in.
Carey earned a double-double with 12 digs, while Wright finished with a team-high 18 and the freshman Bennett added 13 of her own.
“When Logan went out, we really felt like we had to step it up because she’s a big presence on our team,” Carey said.
Riker finished with eight digs while Lawler added nine too.
Quinnipiac (1-6) lost its first six games in the Loyola Marymount Invitational and the University of Maryland Invitational, including a loss to 11th-ranked UCLA, but returned home to secure win number one.
“We had played six really tough teams and we were a little up, I think, starting the match and had a hard time coming down at first,” Quinnipiac head coach Robin Lamott Sparks said. “We showed great poise in that fifth set. I am really, really pleased with the poise we showed, and our steadiness.”
Led by Allen’s two solo blocks and three assisted blocks by Payne, Grattan and Samantha Jablonski, the Bobcats recorded nine blocks in the game, while the Explorers (2-8) only notched two.
“I think people are really focusing more on trying to do more with blocks,” Sparks said. “I think our middles did a great job at anticipating, and that made a big difference.”
The Bobcats trailed, 2-1, after three sets before Allen took over. Playing in front of her parents, including NBA player Ray Allen, seven of her 13 kills came in the final two sets.
“I knew they were going to be here and it keeps me going,” Allen said. “It makes me play better because they haven’t seen me play and haven’t seen me progress at the college level, so it amped me up even more just to show them what I really can do.”
Five different La Salle players finished with double-digits in digs, including 22 by Breanna Mazalewski. Kelly Scanlon had a team-high 14 kills and Kourtney Clark recorded 38 assists.
The Bobcats play Saturday morning at 11 a.m. against Navy and again in the afternoon against Delaware State.