POTSDAM - Trailing by two points in the fifth and final set against fourth-seeded New Paltz, the third-seeded Clarkson University womens volleyball team scored four straight points, including two kills from the tournaments Most Outstanding Player Adrienne Walker (Centennial, CO), to claim the last game and advance to the NCAA Division III Volleyball National Championships by winning the NCAA New York Regional Championship Sunday afternoon at Alumni Gymnasium.
The Golden Knights improved to 31-6 overall and will have little time to rest as they get set to take off today to compete in the national quarterfinals to be held at Hope College in Holland, MI, where they will face Minnesota-St. Thomas on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. New Paltz had its season end with a record of 34-9.
Clarkson is the first volleyball team from the Liberty League to win a regional championship match.
In the first set, Clarkson and New Paltz traded points in the early going, but it appeared as if the Knights had the set in hand after a kill from Aishvina Arasu (Brea, CA) made the score 24-22. However, the Hawks would not go away and tied things up with a pair of kills from Michelle Jacobson. A pair of errors from the Hawks gave Clarkson the edge in extra points (26-24), but it was a harbinger of things to come.
The second set seemed as if it would have no end, but once again Clarkson had an advantage and New Paltz kept the pressure on. The Knights were up by four (24-20) with just one point remaining to cinch a second-set victory, but New Paltz capitalized on four straight errors by Clarkson to again set up extra points. It would take more than just a single extra point for a team to pick up the win, though, as the teams teetered back and forth until the Hawks were finally able to gain three straight points. Eleanor Skovgaard struck for a kill to tie the score at 30-30, and New Paltz rode a pair of hitting errors into a 32-30 victory.
Set number three was less in question as New Paltz had a handle on things midway through the match. Up by just one point, 14-13, New Paltz won five of the next six points for a more pleasant advantage and continued on to take a five-point victory. With momentum seemingly on the Hawks side, New Paltz looked to finish off Clarkson in four sets, but an incredible run left no doubt that the Golden Knights would win the fourth. Up 4-2, Clarkson stared its run with an error by New Paltz and ran off 14 more straight points with Kirstie Shurie (LaCanada, CA) serving. Coupling kills and four aces from Shurie in the run, Clarkson ran off to a 19-2 advantage and cruised to a 25-10 win.
The final set returned to a high level of contentiousness as New Paltz was able to right itself. The Hawks pushed out to a three-point advantage early and held a two-point lead at the bench switch (8-6). Though New Paltz would continue to hold an edge, for the majority of the extra set, the Golden Knights rallied to take the final four points. The Hawks were up 13-11, but Walker produced a kill and Aishvina Arasu tied things up with another kill to force a New Paltz timeout. Right out of the brief break, Victoria Kirkemo (Englewood, CO) aced the Hawks and Adrienne Walker tapped down a kill for the clincher.
Walker was named the Most Outstanding Player of the New York Regional, and showed why in the championship match with 18 kills and just four errors in 37 swings. Kirkemo led the team with 20 kills and 15 digs, while Arasu was one short of her classmate in each category as well with 19 kills and 14 digs. Setter Lani Durio (Austin, TX) came within one assist of her career-high with 57 sets and also added in 22 digs. Erika Chin (Katy, TX) had a match-high 28 digs and Kirstie Shurie hasd 15 digs and six aces.
For New Paltz, Michelle Jacobson had an incredible match with 20 kills and 22 digs, as well as a pair of block assists. Dana Vosilla had six total blocks and 10 kills and Marissa King led the offense with 50 assists. Carrie Hack contributed 27 digs as the teams libero, while Katy Herbst had 14 digs and Becca Borquist contributed nine kills, three aces, and 12 digs.
NCAA NOTES: The Golden Knights, 31-6, are one of just eight teams out of more than 400 in Division III Volleyball remaining in the NCAA National Championship race. They pull a tough opponent in the opening round in the Tommies (37-1), ranked eighth in the country in the last AVCA poll. Of the eight teams remaining (St. Thomas, Calvin College, Elmhurst College, Salisbury, Christopher Newport, Puget Sound, UMass-Boston, and Clarkson), five were the top ranked team in their respective regions. The only two teams not ranked in the top 15 in the country are the Golden Knights and UMass-Boston.