The Women’s Volleyball team made it to the regional finals of the 2013 NCAA Div. III Women’s Volleyball Championship Tournament before losing 3-1 to No. 22 Clarkson University on Nov. 17.
The Lady Hawks edged the Lady Golden Knights 27-25 in the first set before dropping the next three sets 27-25, 25-18, 25-15, falling in the third round of the tournament to Clarkson for the second year in a row.
With a 32-6 overall record prior to the the tournament and a regular season conference record of 9-0, Head Coach Matt Giufre said he was proud of the season the team produced despite losing to Buffalo State 3-1 in the SUNYAC Finals.
“I thought about the season we put together, and I thought, ‘it’s so clear they deserve the opportunity to play [in the NCAA Tournament],’” Giufre said.
The NCAA thought so, too.
Giufre said he was in the office with many of the players when they looked online and found out they would be traveling to Potsdam to play Colby-Sawyer College in the first round. The room exploded with excitement.
While making it to the tournament didn’t completely take away the bitter taste of not winning SUNYACs, Giufre said it took away some of the sting.
“It felt really good making it to NCAAs and we felt as if we had something to prove after losing to Buffalo State,” third-year outside hitter Alex Bizub said.
The Lady Hawks swept the Lady Chargers of Colby-Sawyer (25-23, 25-23, 25-16), which was not without some challenges, Giufre said.
“We had seen video of them playing, but they hadn’t played as well then as they were playing against us now,” Giufre said. “We were down 14-6, and I told them ‘it’s up to you guys now.’”
After winning the first two sets of the match, Giufre said the Lady Chargers were discouraged and couldn’t close the lead the Lady Hawks had created, forcing 13 attacking errors in the third set alone.
The team continued a high level of play into their second round match against Richard Stockton College the next day. Recording a tally of 10 service aces, 36 kills and a hitting percentage of .181 compared to Richard Stockton’s -.059, Giufre said this was the best match the team has played all year.
“We went in with a plan, and we knew we had to execute,” Giufre said. “Every player did their job correctly and we accomplished everything we wanted to do in that game.”
The Lady Hawks won the match 3-0 (25-15, 25-14, 25-19), advancing on to the third round and regional final and knowing they would once again face Clarkson in the same round as last year, when the Lady Hawks fell to the Lady Golden Knights 3-2 (24-26, 32-30, 25-20, 10-25, 13-15).
“We always go into games fired up, not assuming that we are going to win, but with the mindset that we are going to win,” fourth-year Captain Marissa King said. “We did the same thing going into this game.”
King said while the team knew they had graduated three fourth-years last year and Clarkson had graduated none, making a “huge difference” in terms of experience and level of play, this didn’t affect the outcome of the game because both teams wanted the regional title just as badly.
Giufre said the team went in with the game plan to put pressure on the Lady Golden Knights and push them around the court before they could do the same to them. After losing the first two games, however, he said it was clear the firepower from the bigger and stronger Clarkson team was “too much to overcome,” with a .250 hitting percentage compared to the Lady Hawks’ .148 and a recorded 61 kills to the Lady Hawks’ 48.
“I think our passers did a great job against them,” Giufre said. “But sometimes the size of your heart is beaten out by the size of your person.”
Looking forward, Giufre said Clarkson is both the Lady Hawks’ new rival and aspiration. The team will reconvene after Thanksgiving break and will be working with the strength and conditioning coach, Gary Gall, as well as working on strengthening their serving game, being aggressive and perfecting their accuracy.
“We will continue to recruit great athletes and continue to work hard,” Giufre said. “We have the tools to be at the level we want to be.”