Newport News, Va. – The Capital Athletic Conference Volleyball Championship Tournament run by St. Mary's College of Maryland came to a halt Thursday night at the hands of No. 9 Christopher Newport University. The fifth-seeded Seahawks rallied for a 2-1 lead before dropping a 3-2 decision to top-seeded CNU – 17-25, 26-24, 26-24, 17-25, 14-16.
"Seahawk Nation should be proud of our team tonight!" expressed first-year head coach Jeremy Sands.
With the match tied at 2-2, the two sides battled in the fifth and decisive set as the game was tied four times and the lead changed twice. The Captains took an early 3-1 lead following three consecutive errors by St. Mary's. The Seahawks turned it around and posted a 10-6 advantage behind six CNU errors. St. Mary's maintained its lead over the Captains, leading 14-13 before CNU used a 3-0 run to seal the win.
St. Mary's season under first-year head coach Jeremy Sands closes out with a 17-10 (5-4 CAC) record for the program's ninth winning season in the last 10. Christopher Newport (30-3) will now host No. 6 seed Salisbury University in Saturday's CAC championship match. Salisbury was a 3-0 winner over No. 2 seed Southern Virginia University in tonight's other semifinal matchup.
"What a hard fought battle tonight! The team really turned it on in the second set and never quit. I'm so proud of this team for all the hard work they put in. We faced a tough schedule this year and it started with challenging ourselves against top teams in the beginning of the season," expressed Sands. "I wish we had one more week just to see how much better we could get."
Junior middle hitters Karlee Vaillant (Arnold, Md./Broadneck) and Mandy Goodspeed (Columbia, Md./Atholton) paced the Seahawks with double-digit kill performances. Vaillant tallied 12 kills while Goodspeed picked up 10. The duo was a force at the net as well, combining for 6.5 total blocks of the team's 15 as Goodspeed collected season-bests of six block assists and eight total blocks.
Tonight's five-setter featured 37 tied scores and 19 lead changes. CNU opened up the match with a 1-0 lead following a 25-17 win in the first set as sophomore middle blocker Hannah Miller (Palmyra, Va./Fluvanna County) notched six kills and hit at a .750 clip.
The Seahawks knotted the match at 1-1 with a 26-24 victory in the second set behind three kills each from Vaillant and senior Jenahye' Johnson (Randallstown, Md./Seton Keough). St. Mary's carried its hard-fought momentum into the third set, posting another 26-24 triumph for a 2-1 lead in the match. Vaillant led the charge with another three kills while Goodspeed had 3.0 blocks (2 solos, 1 assist).
After a 2-0 deficit to start the fourth game, the Captains never trailed again en route to a 25-17 win to knot the match at 2-2. Sophomore outside hitter Maddie McCann (Mathews, Va./Mathews) paced her squad to the win with three kills.
Sophomore Mimi Graf (Annapolis, Md./Broadneck) dished out 24 assists while junior setter Grace Chao (Ellicott City, Md./Centennial) added 16. On the defensive side of the ball, sophomore libero Carissa Hill (Lanham, Md./Pallotti) recorded 21 digs while Graf wrapped up her team-leading 11th double-double of the season with a dozen digs.
Miller guided the Captains to their 30th win of the season with a match-best 15 kills while McCann added 11. Seniors Brooke Moore (Merritt Island, Fla./Bishop O'Connell [Va.]) and Jessie Kolden (Alexandria, Va./Hayfield) and junior setter Rachel Conway (Fairfax, Va./W.T. Woodson) combined for 40 digs while Conway notched a double-double with 48 assists.
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