3rd-Seeded Bentley Hosts Saint Anselm Tuesday in Quarterfinals of Northeast-10 Championships

Rachel Bruno
Rachel Bruno

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Bentley University Falcons will make their record 35th appearance in the 37-year history of the Northeast-10 Women's Volleyball Championships Tuesday evening when they host Saint Anselm College in a quarterfinal match-up at the Dana Center. First serve is at 7 pm with a free webcast at www.bentleyfalcons.tv.

Bentley, 19-9 overall and 10-4 conference, secured the number three seed over the weekend by posting wins over Pace University and Adelphi University. Saint Anselm (15-11, 8-6 NE10) finished in a four-way tie for fifth and received the sixth seed by virtue of the conference tiebreaker.

The other quarterfinal match-ups will have top-seeded New Haven taking on number eight Pace, seventh-seeded Southern Connecticut traveling to number two American International and Adelphi hosting Stonehill in the 4-5 match.

The top surviving seed will host the final two rounds with the Bentley-Saint Anselm survivor paired against the Adelphi-Stonehill winner. The semis will be Friday evening and the championship match Saturday at 5 pm.

Bentley has a long and successful history in the conference championships, one that includes nine championships, 16 trips to the finals and 24 semifinal appearances, all NE10 records. However, the Falcons will be seeking their first postseason win since reaching the finals in 2014.

Meanwhile, Saint Anselm will be seeking its first-ever win in the NE10's, having come up empty with an 0-12 record in nine previous appearances.

Coach Joey Pacis' Bentley team will be looking to avenge two earlier losses to Saint Anselm this season, its first two in the history of the series. Both were played in Manchester, N.H. with the Hawks prevailing 18-25, 25-17, 25-16 and 25-13 back on Sept. 9 and 25-23, 27-25 and 25-17 two-and-a-half weeks later.

In those two, Saint Anselm had the edge across the board statistically, including 19-8 in aces and 17-11 in blocks.

Since they last squared off, the Falcons have had the better record with ten wins in 14 matches. Saint Anselm, on the other hand, has dropped five of its last seven and is 5-7 since last meeting up with Bentley.

In addition to advancing in the championships, Tuesday's match will also be important in relation to NCAA Division II tournament selections. As of last Wednesday, Saint Anselm was eighth in the East and Bentley right behind in ninth.

The Falcons have been powered this season by a pair of sophomores, Dani Milner (Plano, Texas/The Greenhill School) and Rachel Bruno (San Diego, Calif./Frances Parker School). Milner is one of only two conference players averaging at least three kills and three digs, and Bruno owns the NE10's best hitting percentage at .372. That mark has grown to .402 in Bentley's 14 conference matches, and she is also fifth in the NE10 in blocks (0.94).

Senior Celia Cristofoli (Fort Collins, Colo./Hudson (Ohio) HS), the team's libero, averages 4.71 digs and has 1,168 for her career. Classmate and outside hitter Shannon Kelly (Hyde Park, N.Y./Franklin D. Roosevelt HS) could join her in the 1,000-dig club on Tuesday as she is just three away. Kelly is coming off her tenth double-double of the season, second only to Milner's 15 on the team.

Saint Anselm leads the NE10 in hitting this season at .215 and the Hawks are also third in aces at 1.74. Senior outside hitter Katy Teets serves an NE10-high 0.52 aces per set and sophomore Madison Sollows is third in hitting (.345).