WEST HAVEN, Conn. – New Haven advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament with a 3-2 win against Bridgeport on Saturday. The Chargers advance to the quarterfinals for the 12th time in program history. New Haven won the match by set scores of 25-16, 20-25, 25-13, 20-25 and 18-16.
New Haven improved to 30-1 with its 27th consecutive victory. Second-seeded Bridgeport – the East Coast Conference Champions – ended its season at 27-5.
Kristy Atufunwa and Keidy Candelaria had 15 kills apiece. Amber Cannady added 14 finishers and Kristen Lee posted 10. Ashley Dalton contributed four kills and Kea-Marie Olaso notched one. Kaulana Ane distributed 49 assists with five kills of her own for New Haven, which collectively hit .171 (64-30-199).
Defensively, Olaso registered 28 kills and Bai Zhang had 13 from the back row. Ane, Lee and Candelaria all completed double-doubles with 12, 11 and 10 digs, respectively. At the net, Atufunwa had a hand in five of the Chargers’ eight blocks, helping to limit the Purple Knights to a .144 hitting percentage (55-29-180).
Ying Shen (12 kills, 20 digs), Biljana Savic (14 kills, 11 digs) and Fernanda Silva (46 assists, 12 digs) all recorded double-doubles for Bridgeport. Taylor McBeth led all players with 33 digs.
New Haven started off strong with the first five points of the match – including three of Candelaria’s four service aces – en route to a 25-16 set-one win. The Purple Knights responded in set two, breaking a 20-all deadlock by winning the final five points to take a 25-20 decision and knot the match at one.
In the third set, the Chargers once again never trailed. New Haven fought off four early ties, but finished the frame on a 16-4 run to earn a 25-13 win.
Set four was much like the previous frame, though this time it was Bridgeport that claimed the advantage out of an early tie. The Purple Knights put together seven consecutive points in the middle of the frame en route to a 25-20 win that pushed the match to a deciding fifth set.
For the consecutive match, the Chargers found themselves trailing 5-1 in set five and cut the deficit to 8-6 at the turn. New Haven continued the rally to take a 12-11 lead before the Purple Knights won three consecutive points to earn the first match point at 14-12. Kills by Ane and Lee fought off the first two championship-point chances and, after a Bridgeport point, an Atufunwa kill erased a third. The Chargers were on the ropes again when Lee came through with a kill to tie the score at 16. This time, New Haven had back-to-back kills from Candelaria to send the Chargers to the quarterfinals.