Volleyball Defends the Hive with NE-10 Championship


Cody Houghtling

The Yellow Jackets celebrate after winning another set.

Liz Day, Staff Writer

SPRINGFIELD, MA–The American International College women’s volleyball team brought home the conference championship on Saturday, November 20 against the New Haven Chargers. The Yellow Jackets outscored the Chargers 3-2 in the Butova Gymnasium in Springfield. This is the first NE-10 championship won by the Yellow Jackets since 1996.

Ada Guilera Martinez sent the home team to the top with the match point, sending a striking ace down the left side of the court. It was three kills in the fourth set from Andrea Serra-Rosa that forced the fifth set for the Yellow Jackets. The coaches made a rotation change in the fourth that sped up the momentum of the game and gave the control back to the Black and Yellow.

The home team had struggled in the third set as well as the second, but those were the only sets they lost. New Haven had a 4-point run in the second set before AIC tied the set, 11-11. But the Yellow Jackets ultimately couldn’t get on top of the Chargers. The third set was similar to the second in the way that AIC couldn’t get ahead, but could hold on with their opponents.

AIC won the first set, 25-21, with a great nine-point run started by Mai-Lani Hernandez, Janae Kelly, and Ulrika Blomgren. Despite the Chargers coming out hot with a five-point run, they would be stopped by Serra-Rosa, who aced the final serve of the first set.

Outside hitter Andrea Serra-Rosa. (Cody Houghtling)

Serra-Rosa, a graduate student from Toa Alta, Puerto Rico, was named the Tournament MVP and added to the All-Tournament team with teammate Amanda Rodriguez. Serra-Rosa was also named to First-Team All-NE-10 and was awarded NE-10 Player of the Year.

In an article published by the AIC athletics department, the coach, Matt Cribbin spoke very highly of his two all-tournament team selections. “What can you say about Andrea [Serra-Rosa]?” Cribbin said. “We would not be in the position we are without all of the things that she brings to the table. She is an incredible talent and we are fortunate to have someone of her caliber.” He elaborated, “Amanda [Rodriguez] is the unsung hero of AIC volleyball. She’s in the trenches, gritting her teeth and doing the dirty work without any recognition. You have to be there day in and day out to see what she really brings to this team. I’m glad she finally got the recognition she deserves.”

The Yellow Jackets celebrate after winning another set. (Cody Houghtling)

Serra-Rosa was very happy to win the championship. She shared in an interview, “One feeling cannot describe how I feel about this. But it is a great experience, and I am very grateful I had to be part of that…I felt like [I] was in shock. I could not believe we won. I had butterflies in my stomach and felt happy.” The captain also shared that “the game was a tough one for the team. We came out a little slow and struggled in some facets of the game, but after the third set we started playing our game and focused on our side of the court. For me, the game was a little tough. On the first two sets I struggled a little on my hitting because New Haven had a solid block. But after that, I did some adjustments and worked my way through it.”

The outside hitter, Serra-Rosa explained how honored she was to host and to “play in front of our fans and give them a good show.” Serra-Rosa said that Coach Cribbin told the team before the game “to trust our skills and play AIC volleyball.”

Serra-Rosa’s teammate and YJ contributor Ulrika Blomgren also sat down for an interview. The freshmen powerhouse from Sollentuna, Sweden, had 17 kills in the championship match. She was excited to share her thoughts on winning the NE-10 conference title. “It feels amazing! It was one of our goals in the beginning of the season, and I am so happy to be part of this great volleyball program. I can not even explain the feeling after, when I could see the happiness in my teammates’ and coaches’ faces. They have been here for a long time, and to be able to give something back to them was awesome.”

Blomgren explained when she knew the team had won it all. “We were up by quite a bit in the fifth set and as soon as I saw that it was Ada… who was going to serve, I knew that this could be the final point since she is one of our best servers. I saw that it was an ace and just went down on my knees. It was a long and tiring game–mentally, especially–and I just felt the euphoria.”

This win makes the twentieth game the Yellow Jackets have won. They have not lost a game in the month of October or November. After hosting the NE-10 tournament, they will be hosting the NCAA regional championship on December 2nd in Springfield, Massachusetts.