Playing without three of the team’s possible starters, the Bobcats lost their sixth straight game, this time to the New Hampshire Wildcats in straight sets (26-24, 25-15, 25-18) Saturday night in Burt Kahn Court.
Tanner Celestin played mostly as an outside hitter, taking over for an injured Tierra Allen, while freshman Brittanie Robinson started for the sixth straight match.
“We got a chance to work on a new lineup today. You hate saying that this late in the preseason, but we had to make some adjustments,” Sparks said. “It’s the first time Tanner has played outside. I think we got better in that position as the day went on, and we have to get better.”
The Bobcats (1-12) were also playing without Samantha Jablonski and Logan Riker, who has missed six straight games since leaving in the third set against La Salle last Friday.
“We’ve lost three starters since the beginning of the year, and that’s tough,” Sparks said. “We’ve got people playing positions that they haven’t and they just need a little bit of time.”
Celestin recorded a game-high 13 kills, including nine in the first set, but also made eight errors – seven coming in the final two sets. Robinson, Kelby Carey and Tracy Wright all had double-figures in digs, and Kayla Lawler had 26 assists for the Bobcats.
After the first set was decided by two points, Quinnipiac committed 11 errors in the second set, compared to the Wildcats’ two. New Hampshire’s attack outmatched Quinnipiac’s, .269 percent to -.212 percent, in the second set.
Despite finishing the first set with nine kills and just one error, Celestin struggled in the second set, totaling two kills and five errors in the frame.
“I just think they started keying on her a little bit,” Sparks said of New Hampshire’s game plan against Celestin. “She’s a freshman, so she sometimes wasn’t watching for the block all the time; things were pretty easy for her in the first set.”
The Bobcats only had four kills in the second set, compared to 16 in the first. Setter Kayla Lawler had 15 of her 25 assists in the first, but only had two in the second.
Up by one point in the third set, New Hampshire (1-12) used a pivotal 9-3 run to take a 24-17 lead. The Wildcats recorded six blocks in the last two sets and outkilled the Bobcats 19-13.
“The energy just started to slip away in the second and third,” junior Taylor Payne said. “You don’t really know where it goes. We tried to fight back and find the fire, but not all of us were on at the same time, so I think that’s one of the big factors.”
Amy Keding had a double-double for the Wildcats with a team-high 10 kills and 11 digs. Jansan Falcusan had 31 assists and Sam Henke recorded 15 digs.
The Bobcats play Sept. 25 at Central Connecticut State, the first Northeast Conference game of the year for Quinnipiac.