MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. – A historic season for the Clarion Golden Eagles volleyball team came to an end at the hands of West Texas A&M in the NCAA Elite Eight, 3-0 (25-23, 25-16, 25-18).
It was a season that saw the Golden Eagles win their second Atlantic Region championship in program history (the first coming in 2010) before falling on Thursday to the defending national champions.
“I think we held strong,” said Clarion head coach Jennifer Herron. “I think we took some gutsy swings at the right time. We could have served a little bit tougher, but here’s the deal, we were one of eight still playing. When we walked off the court it doesn’t negate the fact that we had an amazing season. This group of girls, I couldn’t be more proud to be their coach.”
The key moment of the match may have come in the first set. The two teams went back-and-forth, eventually ending up knotted at 23-all.
The Buffs got back-to-back kills from Carly Evetts and Taytum Stow to close out the set, giving themselves all the momentum in the process.
“I think that there were some situations where they just made some better decisions when they were out of system, and that’s just what it came down to,” Herron said.
A pair of kills from Julia Piccolino kept Clarion within striking distance early in the second set, but West Texas A&M went on a 6-3 run that included a kill from Camy Jones to take a 15-10 advantage and was in control the rest of the way.
“All credit to Clarion, it was a slugfest,” said West Texas A&M coach Kendra Potts. “Between sets two and three both teams were hitting above .300. That was a fun match, regardless of if it was three sets. I feel like that’s misleading. We had to be very good.”
The Buffs finished with a .258 hitting percentage, while Clarion finished at .162.
Clarion had a nice run to start the third set, with a kill from Piccolino and back-to-back kills from All-American Cassidy Snider to go up 7-4.
West Texas A&M responded. After tying the score at 10-all, the Buffs went on a 6-0 run, with Evetts notching a kill and three hitting errors from Clarion. The lead never got below five the rest of the way.
Five different West Texas A&M Players – Stow, Jones, Brynne Wright, Evetts and Torrey Miller had two kills each, while Blair Moreland had seven set assists.
For Clarion, Snider had six kills and Piccolino four, while All-American London Fuller had 11 set assists.
“All of the awards, the accolades, they didn’t just come to us,” Fuller said. “We worked our butts off for it.”
For Clarion, it’s bittersweet. Sad to see their season come to end, but taking tremendous amount of pride in a team that reached the Elite Eight for just the second time in program history.
“I’m just proud,” Herron said. “It blows my mind. We talked about it as a team in the locker room just how far we ‘ve come. A group of athletes that just wanted to outwork everyone else. That group, aThlete after athlete that came into our program, said this is the way we’re going to do it here. That’s something as a coach you always push for, but doesn’t always come to fruition. But they made the decision that the work was what was going to be necessary. Coming in at 5:30 a.m. in the gym isn’t for nothing, and they’re leaving that legacy.”