by Tom Utescher
Last Thursday evening Chestnut Hill College was oh so close to taking a 2-1 lead in sets against visiting Holy Family University, the undefeated leader in the Southern Division of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference.
After the teams split the first two sets, the host Griffins approached set point in the third at 24-22, but the Tigers rallied to win 27-25, and then took the fourth frame, 25-19, to wrap up a 3-1 match victory.
This continued a pattern that is both encouraging and frustrating for the Griffins, who have shown that they can be competitive with strong teams but have had trouble nailing down the “W”. They slipped to 2-5 in the conference and 7-10 overall with Thursday’s outcome, while the Tigers left with a 7-0 mark in the CACC and 10-9 tally against all opponents.
Holy Family took a 5-1 lead in the opening set and was up 13-9 a few minutes later when a kill by sophomore middle Mary Markowski sparked an 11-2 run for CHC. During this stretch another sophomore, Alex DePalma, punched out two kills and scored on a tip, while freshman setter Sidney Chukuntarod found the floor on a well-placed pass.
Chestnut Hill led the rest of the way, closing out the game at 25-22 when a set by Chukuntarod positioned the ball for a quick slam just above the net tape by Markowski.
In the second segment it was the Tigers who would stage a decisive mid-set surge. The visitors were down 5-7, then captured 10 of the next dozen points and remained ahead until a 25-14 final score went in the books. Up front, Holy Family had 6’3” sophomore Sarah Ambach in the middle, but their most dynamic attacker was 5’10” senior outside Jillian Keeve.
The visitors inched ahead 2-0 in the third set, but Chestnut Hill scored the next six points, which included three kill from the right side by Katherine Tohanczyn. The senior co-captain underscored her credo (“You don’t mess with the Tohan”) by batting down three more balls during the game.
The Tigers recovered a few points, but in the middle of the set CHC led 13-7, with DePalma scoring on a clever tip and making a great dig in the back, while Markowski registered a kill. After that, several errors by the Griffins helped Holy Family trim its deficit, and the score leveled out at 19-19.
The Tigers then pulled ahead, 22-20, but turned the ball over with a serve into the net. Sophomore Sarah Mattaliano stepped to the service line for CHC, which got a block from Markowski and DePalma to tie the set. A true service ace to the right rear sector of the HFU court moved the hosts ahead, then a Markowski kill in the middle got the Griffins to set point at 24-22.
Visiting freshman Devyn Ingram scored on a hit off of a CHC block to break the CHC string. After the Tigers went up 25-24, Chestnut Hill extended the game as Chukuntarod tipped the ball over the front row to score, but the Tigers secured the next two points to win 27-25.
The Griffins did not fold their tents in the fourth round, staying even up to 9-9. However, junior co-captain and middle hitter Cassie Benson had left the court with an injury just eight points into the set. Breaking the deadlock, Holy Family took command with a 10-2 surge and the home team was unable to recover. The Tigers prevailed, 25-19, to wrap up the match.
For the evening, Tohanczyn topped the CHC hit parade with 11 kills, closely followed by DePalma and Markowski with 10 apiece. Chukuntarod passed out a total of 29 assists, and junior libero Liz DiGregorio gutted out 26 digs. Holy Family was led in the kill zone by Keeve (14), Ambach (13), and Ingram (10), who all benefitted from Chelsea Keegan’s 38 assists.