POTSDAM - In years past, the Clarkson University womens volleyball team had to wait until Mondays Division III NCAA Championships selection show to see if it would be one of the lucky at-large selections.
The Liberty League, without an automatic bid for numerous years because of only five teams, expanded to seven squads in 2011 but had to wait until 2013 to receive a qualifier from its conference tournament. The Golden Knights made sure to keep the at-large selection process for other teams to concern themselves, as the Green and Gold dominated the Liberty League Tournament with a pair of sweeps, allowing an average of just 14 points per set to cruise to the championship.
For a third consecutive season, the road to the NCAA National Championships will literally go through Potsdam as Clarkson University, ranked 23rd in the country, was selected to host the Regional Championships. The Golden Knights were awarded the top seed in the regional, which starts on Friday at Alumni Gym with second-seeded Richard Stockton taking on seventh-seeded Rivier College at 12:30 p.m. Third-seeded SUNY New Paltz will then face sixth-seeded Colby Sawyer College at 3 p.m., followed by fourth-seeded New York University taking on fifth-seeded Nazareth College. Clarkson will finish off the first day by facing eight-seeded Westfield State at 8p.m. The semifinal matches will take place on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. and 6p.m. The championship round will begin at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 17th. The winner of the regional will then advance to Holland, MI for the NCAA National Championship Quarterfinals the following weekend.
Clarkson, the defending New York Regional champions, dominated its competition in the region in 2013, winning all 27 matches against teams in New York and losing a total of just four sets in the process. However, the Golden Knights are not overlooking any of the teams in the 2013 Regional, knowing full well that at this point in the season any one team can beat another on any given day.
Clarkson went 7-5 against NCAA Tournament participants this season, beating UC Santa Cruz, Southern Vermont, University of Chicago and Buffalo State, as well as Potsdam Regional teams Richard Stockton, New York University, and Nazareth. The only teams that Clarkson lost to that are participating in this years NCAA Tournament are Hope College, Elmhurst (twice), Juniata, and Mount Union, teams that spent the majority of the season ranked in the top 10 in the country.
Despite reaching the NCAA Quarterfinals last season, losing to the eventual national champions, Clarkson is still a fairly young team with just three seniors and three juniors. Senior setter Lani Durio (Austin, TX), who ranks second in total assists among active setters in all of Division III, runs a diverse offense that ranks among the top 20 teams in the nation in hitting percentage (.265) and was chosen as the Liberty League Player of the Year. Classmate Xiao Liang (Tianjin, China) has made an amazing impact in her only season with the Knights, and was dominant over the weekend en route to being chosen Liberty League Tournament Most Valuable Player. Her .378 hitting percentage led the conference and is one of the top 25 figures in the country. Besides a strong offense, the Knights begin points by putting opponents on edge with a strong serving game, led by sophomore Victoria Kirkemo (Englewood, CO), who set a Clarkson single-season record for aces in a season. Clarksons service game ranks in the top 30 in the country in aces per set (2.66).