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College volleyball: Golden Knights move into regional final

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POTSDAM — The current season is the only season that senior Xiao Liang will play for the Clarkson University women’s volleyball team.

And the junior college transfer is taking full advantage of the opportunity.

The Tianjin, China, native literally powered the Golden Knights into today’s NCAA Division III New York Regional final with a superb semifinal outing on Saturday evening at Alumni Gymnasium.

With New York University (28-8) challenging in game four, after rallying from a 2-0 deficit to trail 2-1 in games, Liang helped Clarkson reverse a game-four 12-10 deficit. She notched five of her 15 kills down the stretch as the Knights prevailed, 25-13, 25-14, 18-25, 25-18.

Top-seed Clarkson (34-6), ranked 22nd nationally, meets No. 3 SUNY New Paltz (32-5) today at 2:30 at Alumni Gym in a repeat of last year’s regional final won by Clarkson, which went on to advance to the NCAA Elite Eight.

“Xiao is a breath of fresh air. She just plays. The bigger the moment, the bigger she steps up,” Clarkson coach Johan Dulfer said. “She carried us through that fourth set. She had some big kills.”

The 6-1 middle hitter says Clarkson still has room to improve as the team heads into today’s final.

“Our team is still learning, I think we still have mistakes. We’re looking to getting better and better,” said Liang, who was aided by Lani Durio’s 45 assists. “The kills tonight were big for me, but it was the team work.”

Durio added 11 digs while Erika Chin totaled a match-high 19 digs and four aces for the winners Victoria Kirkemo produced 14 kills, 10 digs, and three aces for Clarkson.

Aishvina Arasu contributed 10 kills for Clarkson.

“We’ve played a lot of tough teams this year, five of our six losses were to top 10 teams in the country. That tough schedule has allowed us to play our best now,” said Durio, the Liberty League Player of the Year. “Tonight, NYU switched up everything in game three, but we figured it out.”

Said Dulfer: “We do a very good job at the service line. For us, it’s figuring out who’s going to be at the service line. We want to serve a team out of their system. That worked for the first two sets tonight.”

Gigi Morally came off the bench for NYU to record a team-high seven kills. Emily Moore led the team with 24 assists and 14 digs, and Matia Hughes also added 14 digs.

SUNY New Paltz 3, Richard Stockton 0

In the other semifinal, SUNY New Paltz advanced with a 25-15, 25-14, 25-19 sweep of Richard Stockton, N.J., using a stifling defense and strong serving effort to move on to its second straight regional final.

Becca Borquist finished with 14 kills and eight digs, but the biggest offense for SUNY New Paltz might have been its defense.

The Hawks recorded 12 total blocks and 20 assists. Liz Hauser had seven of those blocks, with one solo and six assists. Marissa King led the Hawks with 29 assists and also posted five aces.

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