ERIE, Pa. – The Clarion women’s volleyball team claimed the second NCAA Division II Atlantic Region titles and its first in 13 years with a 3-0 (26-24, 25-20, 25-17) win over IUP in the Atlantic Region title game at Gannon’s Highmark Events Center.
The Golden Eagles now advance to the quarterfinals being played at the UPMC Events Center on the campus of Robert Morris University in Moon Township, Pa. The quarterfinals will be played Thursday, Dec. 7, the semifinals Friday, Dec. 8, and the championship match Saturday, Dec. 9.
The match may very well have been decided in the first set when Clarion staved off set point down 24-23 when Julia Piccolino delivered a kill,
An attack error then put Clarion ahead, 25-24, and Abigail Selfridge ended the set in the Golden Eagles’ favor with an ace.
Both teams entered the intial set with an aggressive approach at the service line with IUP getting the better of the early exchanges and taking a 13-9 advantage.
Back-to-back Crimson Hawk errors pulled the Golden Eagles back within a point, and an over ball off a tough serve by London Fuller set Cassidy Snider up for a kill to tie the set.
IUP scored six of the next nine points to take a 19-16 lead but Fuller delivered a tip kill at the net to halt the run. Charlie Allison blasted an over ball to pull within 20-19, and Clarion eventually tied it at 21 after a setting error by Kat Warpinski.
IUP got a key point when Lauren Valentic notched a kill to give her team a 24-23 lead before Clarion rallied for the victory.
In the second set, the Crimson Hawks again took an early lead, this time going up 8-5, but consecutive errors quickly pulled the Golden Eagles to within a point. Allison and Piccolino briefly tied it with a block on Simay Memisoglu, and Snider put the team ahead 12-11 with a kill off the hands of an IUP blocker. This time Clarion was the one to win the race to 15 points, with Finley Kearney bouncing one off a set from Fuller, and she combined with Leisinger for a block on the next point to make it 16-14. Snider terminated a long rally with a kill that gave the Golden Eagles a 20-18 lead and forced an IUP timeout, and Piccolino followed that up with an ace off the hands of Bailey Flowerdew.
The Crimson Hawks had to burn their second timeout just one point later, when Fuller stuffed Anagnostou on a solo block to put her team ahead 22-18. It was ultimately all part of a 5-0 Golden Eagle run, and Clarion took the set 25-20 after back-to-back IUP attack errors.
The Golden Eagles took a 8-5 lead in the third set after kills on three straight points by Piccolino, and Allison made it 10-6 with a blast as Clarion took advantage of a free ball. The Crimson Hawks responded with a modest 4-0 run to pull back to within 12-10, but the Golden Eagles notched three straight points after that, including a solo block by Fuller. Piccolino made it 17-11 with an ace, but the Crimson Hawks scored four of the next five points to pull within three. Kearney and Snider closed out a long rally with a block to make it 21-15, and Piccolino delivered a kill on a free ball to make it 23-16. The match point came courtesy of Kearney, who clipped the line on a shot from the middle for the win.
The Golden Eagles used a total team effort with many of those contributions coming from their senior class led by Fuller, the senior setter.
She dished out 28 assists and recorded a team-high 11 digs for a double-double, while also contributing two solo blocks and a kill. Piccolino recorded 11 kills and seven digs, while Selfridge kicked in nine digs.
Records also fell on Saturday night. Snider, the CASH product, broke the program’s single season kills record in the third set, topping the mark of 584 kills set by Melanie Bull during the 2003 season. She tied Bull’s record with a smash late in the third set to make it 18-13, and then broke it with a kill off the block at 22-16. Snider finished with a match-high 14 kills.
Clarion last regional championship also came in the Erie area with a 3-0 win over California (Pa.) at Edinboro’s McComb Field House in 2010. The Golden Eagles dropped a 3-0 decision to Dowling in the quarterfinals held in Lousiville, Kentucky. Ironically, that quarterfinal match was held Dec. 2, 2010, 13 years to the date of Clarion winning the regional title this year.