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Clarkson women’s volleyball team reaches playoff championship

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POTSDAM - Senior Xiao Liang (Tianjin, China) struck for seven kills in each of the first two sets and totaled 18 in the match as Vassar College had no answer for the middle hitter as the Clarkson University women’s volleyball team swept the Brewers in three sets, 25-22, 25-13, 25-17 on Friday.

The Golden Knights, ranked 23rd in the country and first in the region, improved to 32-6 overall by taking the semifinal match, and the Brewers fell to 18-18. They will now get set to meet Union College in the Liberty League Championship game this afternoon startting at 4 p.m.

Union dispatched St. Lawrence in three sets earlier in the day, so Clarkson will face the Dutchwomen for the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament at 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.

While Vassar played inspired volleyball in the early going, Clarkson struggled with miscues and trailed in the early going. Down by three midway through the first set, senior setter Lani Durio (Austin, TX) consistently found Liang, who delivered three straight kills to tie the score. Although the two teams traded points for a little longer, Clarkson finished off the Brewers with kills from Liang, Victoria Kirkemo (Englewood, CO) and Aishvina Arasu (Brea, CA).

The second set was not as much in doubt, as Liang was featured prominently, striking for seven more kills. In the third set, Vassar looked to rally in the early going and seemed poised to perhaps push the Knights to a fourth set, but midway through the set, Clarkson turned a two-point lead into a six-point advantage. The Brewers pulled back to within two (17-15), but the Knights offense again found its groove, scoring nine straight points on five kills and a block. After a few points had Vassar pondering a comeback, Arasu drilled a ball into the back corner to end the match.

Liang dominated with 18 kills and just one error in 24 swings (.708 hitting percentage) and also added in three blocks. Arasu and Kirkemo each had nine kills and Durio led the team with 36 assists while also tossing in three kills. Adrienne Walker (Centennial, CO) added five kills and four blocks, and Erika Chin (Katy, TX) and Kirstie Shurie (LaCanada, CA) led the defense with 14 and 9 digs, respectively. With Clarkson’s 32nd win, the Knights topped last year’s record-setting win total and set a new standard for victories and winning percentage.

For Vassar, Clara Cardillo had seven kills, but also committed seven hitting errors. Rose Carmen produced 22 assists, and Chloe Hallum had 16 digs.

Union 3, SLU 0:After splitting during the regular season, Union swept the rubber match between the Dutchwomen and St. Lawrence, winning 25-16, 25-15, 25-21.The Dutchwomen used a couple of minor runs midway through the first two sets to take modest leads and build them into margins that could not be overcome by the Saints. Leading by just three (13-10) midway through the first, Union used a five-point run which was capped off by a Morgan Clark kill, making the score 18-10. The Dutchwomen played just ahead of even the rest of the way and held on for a 25-16 win in the first set. In the second, Union never trailed but was again up by just three (9-6) before a 7-2 run, pushed to the end by a kill from Rachel Wyman put the Dutchwomen in position to take off for another lopsided victory.

In the third set, Union was never able to come up with a run against the Saints, as the two teams seesawed back and forth throughout. It wasn’t until late that Union built up a four-point lead (22-18), forcing St. Lawrence to call a timeout. An ace from Jenna Street was followed by a kill from Amanda Brooks to bring the Saints back to within one (22-12), and making Union take a timeout. That break ended the momentum for St. Lawrence, though, as Union finished off the match with a kill from Rajpreet Dhaliwal, block assists from Morgan Clark and Rachel Wyman, and then a kill in the middle of the court by Wyman to end the match.

Union hit .318 in the match, with Dhaliwal striking at a .500 clip with nine kills and Clark hitting at .600 with six kills. Clark also added in six of the Dutchwomen’s 14 block assists.

St. Lawrence hit only .078, struggling to get clean looks around Union’s block, with Lexi Brown producing nine kills. Jenna Street provided 20 assists in the losing effort.

SUNY POTSDAM SWEPT

The SUNY Potsdam volleyball team’s bid for a SUNYAC championship ended with a 25-17, 25-18, 25-19 first round SUNYAC tournament loss to fourth-seeded Plattsburgh at New Paltz on Friday evening.

The fifth-seeded Bears (15-16 overall) will now wait to see if it has earned a possible ECAC tournament bid.

In recent weeks, Potsdam had battled through adversity with a litany of injuries. Key players such as senior middle hitter Sara Anderson (Lake George, N.Y. ) was not able to play due to injury and senior setter Jenna Blujus (Baldwinsville, N.Y.) had played through some nagging pain.

Nonetheless, the Bears fought competitively throughout, and threatened to take the lead late in the third set when it closed to within a one-point deficit at 20-19 on a Dakota Pruiss kill. There were five ties and three lead changes in the third set alone.

Pruiss, a senior outside hitter/right side from Wallkill, N.Y., had come strong down the stretch especially on the defensive front. She had tallied at least eight kills in four of her previous six matches and racked up double digit digs during the same span.

Pruiss was once again a factor as she finished with a team-high 11 digs and seven kills. Junior outside hitter Liza Fields (Duanesburg, N.Y.) recorded a team-high nine kills and added eight digs. Senior setter Lauren Manzo (Clovis, Calif.) led the Bears with 26 assists. Freshman middle hitter Sarah Becker (Troy, N.Y. ) had six kills.

Plattsburgh was able to maintain control with a more efficient hitting percentage (.306 to the Bears’ .168) and a slight advantage in the passing game (39 assists to 31).

The Cardinals were once again led by graduate student outside hitter/right side Rosi Cummings and sophomore middle hitter Laura Diehl, who each had 11 kills. Each had come up with big performances against the Bears in the previous two meetings that were split between the teams. Junior outside hitter Maggie Schrantz also contributed with 10 kills and eight digs.

Plattsburgh (17-14) advances to play No. 1 New Paltz on Saturday at 6 p.m. in a SUNYAC semifinal.

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