By Ernest Stone
Up 2-1 in games with a 24-23 lead, Washington senior outside hitter Jessica Nicerio launched herself toward the ball and delivered the kill.
Not a player or fan from either side doubted the result, as Nicerio hit a perfectly placed shot to win the game and defeat Academic Athletic Association rival Lowell.
“[Nicerio] is probably the best power hitter in the league,” said Washington head coach Jennifer Gee. “To be honest, whenever the ball was set for her, I knew we’d win the point.”
Yet early on, Nicerio’s stellar play (21 kills, eight digs and six aces) was masked by Washington’s (3-2, 3-0) play as a collective unit.
Capitalizing on untimely errors from Lowell, the Eagles captured the first two games 25-18 and 25-22.
“We actually did a great job of playing in our system,” said Lowell head coach Daniella Morales. “Errors were the key difference between us and them.”
Just as errors and inconsistent serving plagued Lowell early on, the Cardinals rebounded to win the third game 25-19.
The switch-over appeared to be a key turning point in the game.
The fiery Washington crowd, which had virtually eliminated Lowell’s home-court advantage, vacated the seats following the second game, and with the third game under its belt, Lowell’s student section came to life for the first time.
Riding the crowd’s enthusiasm and their own momentum, the Cardinals established a 16-14 lead in the fourth game.
Unfortunately for Lowell, it was at that point that Nicerio took the match over.
After a diving dig prevented the Cardinals from taking a three-point lead, the senior finished the match with two kills in the final four points to prevent the fifth game and secure the win.
“I just feel very comfortable at that position,” Nicerio said. “I play libero for my club, so it’s always nice to get out there and play somewhere else.”
Nicerio’s comfort at outside hitter will prove to be uncomfortable for opposing coaches and players this season.
Following the dramatic loss, the Cardinals move to 8-4 on the season and 2-1 in league and will face Jordan on Wednesday.
As for the Eagles, they will look to remain undefeated in AAA play against Marshall.
“We beat them in their house, we can’t ask for anything more,” Gee said.