LANCASTER, Pa. – The Women's Volleyball Team (15-14, 7-5 NEAC) entered the NEAC Crossover hosted by Lancaster Bible College needing to take at least two of their three scheduled matches in order to be assured of a spot in the NEAC Tournament. Evidently allergic to suspense, the Wildcats took care of business early by winning their first two matches of the weekend to clinch the #6 seed in the upcoming conference playoffs.
The Wildcats began the weekend with a stress-free sweep of St. Elizabeth on Friday night, dispatching with the Eagles 25-23, 25-18, 25-17.
Sophomore Emma Larson (Miller Place, N.Y. / Miller Place) continued to pace the team, leading the way with 12 kills on 29 attempts. Larson also recorded a match-high 7 service aces, adding to her total which as of last week had her ranked in the top-5 nationally.
The easy sweep set up SUNY Poly's most important match of the weekend on the following day, a 10 am pairing with Penn St.-Abington on Saturday morning. With the Wildcats sitting at 6-4 in conference and Penn St.-Abington at 5-5 entering the match, the Nittany Lions would pull into a tie with a win and then hold the tiebreaker over the Wildcats with the head-to-head advantage.
The all-important first set was decided late, as the two teams were tied 19-19 late in the game. A service error by the Nittany Lions snapped a two-point streak, however, putting the Wildcats up 20-19. A pair of attack errors then extended the Wildcat lead, however SUNY Poly gave it right back with a pair of attack errors of their own. One of those errors was credited to Larson, however she redeemed herself a moment later with a kill to put SUNY Poly ahead 23-21.
Arguably the play of the set happened next, as Shelby Kostal (Greenport, N.Y. / Greenport) came up with a huge solo block on an attack by Tiffany Watson, giving the Wildcats a three-point lead and a set-point attempt, which they converted moments later to take the game 25-21.
Armed with a little momentum the Wildcats cruised to a 25-11 win in the second set. The Wildcats had more aces in the set than a hot blackjack table, as the team needed only 4 kills en route to the 14-point victory.
As blackjack tables are prone to do, however, the table went cold in the third set as the Nittany Lions surprised the Wildcats for a 25-21 defeat. Once again the Wildcats recorded a low kill number in the set (5), but this time were unable to make up for it with their service game.
With their nose bloodied the Wildcats responded with their best attacking set of the match in the following set, exploding for 14 kills on just 4 errors and 31 attempts, their best hitting percentage of any set by far.
Despite the output the match still came down to the wire. A kill by Larson broke a 21-21 tie. That was followed by an attacking error from the Nittany Lions, and then freshman Megan Will (Remsen, N.Y. / Remsen) recorded two kills to propel the Wildcats to a 25-22 win to take the match, 3-1.
Veterans are almost always needed in big matches, and junior team co-captain Morgan Eberley (Utica, N.Y. / Whitesboro) did exactly that in the match against Penn St.-Abington. The athletic outside-hitter recorded a team-high 10 kills on 28 attempts, and added 12 digs.
The Wildcats concluded the weekend with a 3-1 loss to a hot Lancaster Bible College team. Phebe Lamont (Waterville, N.Y. / Waterville) recorded a season-high 10 kills in the match to the lead SUNY Poly.
Said Wildcat coach Dan Liberto upon the team's qualifying for the NEAC Tournament:
"I'm very proud of our program for accomplishing a post-season berth. It was one of our goals this season, and our girls have worked very hard. We look forward to preparing these next few weeks for the conference championship."
The Wildcats have five more matches scheduled prior to the start of the NEAC Tournament, beginning with the team's final home match this Wednesday, October 22nd. The team will square off against Utica, with whom they have a 1-1 record so far this season. The rubber match is scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm.