November 19, 2011
Dragons' momentum fades
Final Four bid falls a win short
ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Once the SUNY Cortland women’s volleyball team has time to reflect on a successful season that produced a staggering 42 victories against just two defeats, that should ease some of the frustration of how things ended.
In an NCAA Division III quarterfinal round challenge on Friday evening, the Red Dragons got off to a good start before Christopher Newport battled back for a 20-25, 25-16, 25-10, 25-18 victory to advance into this weekend’s “Final Four” matches being held at this Washington University site.
Christopher Newport, now 37-4 on the season and ranked sixth nationally coming into the tournament, was making its third straight appearance this deep into the tournament — and that experience proved to be invaluable.
“I thought we started out great winning that first set, and I think their experience in that situation and the tempo of their game threw us off a little bit. We’ll be more ready next year,” said Cortland head coach Pam Hoerup.
Cortland, ranked 18th in Division III, was playing in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2000.
“We’ll just be a little more ready next season, have that experience of being here,” said Coach Hoerup, though senior middle hitter Kaitlyn Cooper, senior middle hitter Sheena Asibey and senior libero Jaclyn Lawrence had their Cortland careers conclude.
“I still feel, and we showed it at the beginning of the match, that we could play with Christopher Newport,” added Hoerup, noting Cortland was tied 14-14 in the crucial fourth set before the Captains pulled away. “We just couldn’t sustain. I felt at times Christopher Newport put neon lights on some of the things we needed to work on. I thought it was a great effort for SUNY Cortland, and we’ll take it all in and learn from it.”
The victorious Captains from Virginia will face Carthage (34-6) in the semifinals this afternoon, Carthage a 24-26, 25-18, 25-21, 19-25, 15-6 winner over Springfield on Friday. Eastern (36-2) and Wittenberg (35-3) are in the other semifinal match, with a champion to be crowned on Sunday.
Eastern knocked off St.Thomas out of Minnesota 26-24, 25-18, 25-19 in the quarterfinals, while Wittenberg swept past Cal Lutheran 25-17, 25-15, 25-12.
Cortland was making its ninth overall NCAA quarterfinal appearance and finishes the year with a school-record .955 winning percentage. The Red Dragons officially tie for fifth place nationally in the NCAA tournament.
Cooper led the Red Dragons with eight kills and six blocks — four of those blocks solo. Asibey recorded six kills in her final match, while sophomore outside hitter Aubrey Barrett, senior outside hitter Ashley Coyle — who still has a year of eligibility remaining — and junior outside hitter Katie Wick added five kills apiece.
Sophomore middle hitter Ava Hintz entered in the fourth set and finished with four kills with no errors in 10 attempts for the Red Dragons. Coyle led the team with 21 digs and Lawrence added 12 digs. Junior setter Kristen Guercio finished with 30 assists and sophomore defensive specialist Krissy Silk recorded eight digs and two aces.
Bailey Jensen led Christopher Newport with 16 kills. Cory Harris amassed 12 kills and Jessie Heavenrich handed out 48 assists.
Cortland rallied from a 17-12 deficit to win the opening set. A Barrett kill, a Cooper block and a Christopher Newport error closed the score to 17-15. Down 18-16, Cortland scored eight straight points on Silk’s serve, including two aces, to take a 24-18 lead. Guercio’s block ended the set three points later.
The Red Dragons were within 13-11 in the second set before the Captains went on a 4-0 run, led by two Jensen kills. Cortland did not threaten again in that set. In the third set, CNU led 4-0 early and was up 9-5 before mounting an impressive 12-1 run to put the set out of reach.
Cortland hung tough in the fourth set. The Red Dragons tied the score at 14-14 on a Hintz kill, but two Cortland misplays, an ace and a kill put CNU up 18-14. The Captains then scored four of the next five points to take a 22-15 lead and they never looked back.
“I felt our defense broke down a little bit and we were not able to stay as consistent as Christopher Newport was,” said Cortland’s Hoerup after being unable to build off that opening set momentum. “I felt we made mistakes that seemed to add up a little bit.”
“We had a game plan focused on us and how we needed to play,” said Christopher Newport coach Lindsay Birch. “We got off to a slow start with that and it caused some first game issues, but I was happy we were able to adjust to their style of play. It was a little different than we were usually see, but I was happy with how we adapted and were able to turn it around so quickly.”
“I felt we made mistakes that seemed to add up a little bit,” said Cortland’s Hoerup. “I think the experience of being here will make us stronger for next season.”
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