By Billy Owens
BALTIMORE COUNTY, Md. -- Knights volleyball notched its second consecutive win at home last night, defeating Howard Community College 3-0 in the CCBC Essex Wellness nd Athletics Center.
Serving proved to be key once again for the Knights (4-4) as they finished the match with 17 total aces.
Freshman setter Heather Bertling hit a career-best six aces in the straight-set win over the Dragons (2-6), while sophomore outside hitter Ann Benzinger posted five.
It is just the second time the Knights have defeated the Dragons in the last five years.
"We're getting better and stronger at serving," head coach Geoffrey Koger said. "It's all in practice."
Howard began the first set with an early 4-2 lead, but Essex responded quickly with strong offense from Benzinger and freshman outside hitter Annette Thrappas to go up 5-4.
Essex stayed in front for the remainder of the first frame, closing it out 25-13.
The Knights won the first three points of the second set, seemingly building on their momentum from the previous set, but soon found themselves in a 10-5 hole.
Essex came back to tie it at 12, with both teams locked in a back-and-forth battle for several points afterwards.
The Knights finally regained the lead for good at 18-17 and would go on to take the second set 25-20 for a two-set advantage.
Howard again established a quick lead in the early stages of the third set.
Down 6-2, Essex rallied to win 10 consecutive points to go up 12-6, jump-started by a key block by freshman opposite Sabryn Haskins.
Dominant serves and kills by Bertling, Benzinger and Thrappas helped close out Essex's second straight home victory 25-12.
"[We] finished strong this time," Koger said. "They're busting their butts in practice and it's been working."
Along with her six aces, Bertling finished the evening with 11 assists, second only to sophomore setter Sabrina Bradford's 13.
Four Knights tallied three or more digs, while Benzinger and Thrappas totaled 12 and nine kills, respectively.
"Little by little, we're getting better," Koger said.
The Knights face its toughest test of the season so far against the unbeaten Montgomery Raptors in Rockville on Tuesday. Game time is scheduled for 6 p.m.