PROVIDENCE, RI – Sometimes an influx of new players can take some time to gel, but that's not the case for the Johnson & Wales University women's volleyball team. The Wildcats swept both Amherst (25-11, 25-18, 25-22) and Bridgewater State (25-6, 25-17, 25-13) on the first day of the JWU Invitational to get out to the best start in school history.
Johnson & Wales: 5-0
Bridgewater State: 0-2
Maria Coniglio: 13 Kills, 4 Aces vs. Amherst / 9 Kills, .500 Hitting % vs. BSU
Brylee Frank: 37 Assists, 11 Digs, 6 Kills vs. Amherst / 24 Assists vs. BSU
Elizabeth Hamilton: 11 Kills, 8 Digs, .458 Hitting % vs. Amherst
Kate Walker: 11 Kills, 6 Blocks vs. BSU
Prior to this season, the best start for the Wildcats was the 1999 campaign. That year, JWU began the season with a 4-0 record on its way to the GNAC Championship. In addition to getting out to the best start ever, the Wildcats also defeated Amherst for the first time. Johnson & Wales was 0-10 versus the Purple & White, including a 3-0 defeat in the first round of last year's NCAA Tournament.
Johnson & Wales got out to fast starts in both matches. The 11 points Johnson & Wales limited Amherst to in the first set was the fewest the Purple & White have scored in a set since 2012. JWU was down 19-16 in the third set, but Elizabeth Hamilton (Canton, Mass.) served three-straight points to give the hosts the lead. The Wildcats finished off the set with kills from Hamilton, Brylee Frank (Palm City, Fla.), Maria Coniglio (Old Bethpage, NY) and Emily Kalmink (Byron City, Mich.)
Coniglio showed why she was the GNAC Rookie of the Week as she produced 13 kills, four aces and pair of blocks against Amherst. Hamilton nearly had a double-double with 11 kills and eight digs to go along with a .458 hitting percentage. Fellow freshman Kate Walker (Oakland, Calif.) added nine kills.
The Wildcats dominated both sides of the net, out-hitting Amherst .297-to-.094 and recording eight aces, compared to one by the guests. Johnson & Wales had a decisive 11-4 blocks margin as well as 55-48 for digs.
Freshman setter Brylee Frank (Palm City, Fla.) had a good all-around night. Against Amherst, she produced her first double-double with 37 assists and 11 digs to go along with six kills. She had 24 helpers in the victory over Bridgewater State. Libero Gianna Esposito (Larkspur, Calif.) was in control of the JWU defense, posting 17 digs against Amherst then another 14 versus the Bears.
The six points scored by Bridgewater State are the fewest by a JWU opponent since Mount Ida scored two in the first set of JWU's 3-0 sweep on October 11, 2014. Serving runs by Hamilton and Coniglio sparked JWU to a 20-4 lead. The Bears had a 5-2 lead in the second set before they were outscored 23-12 the rest of the stanza.
The JWU Invitational concludes on Saturday when the Wildcats take on Gordon at 11 a.m. followed by Connecticut College at 3 p.m.