Cambridge, Mass. – For the second straight season, Clark University will play in the New England Women's And Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) volleyball championship. And for the second straight season they beat national power Springfield College to get there.
The surging Cougars, who have now won 11 straight matches and haven't lost since a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Springfield back on October 4, dealt the Pride a decisive 3-0 defeat – just their second loss in their last 22 matches.
No. 3 seed Clark will square off with top-seeded MIT on Sunday in Cambridge, Mass. with the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line.
Score: Clark University 3, Springfield 0 (25-23, 25-21, 25-22)
Records: Clark University 23-7; Springfield 27-5
Location: MIT's Rockwell Cage, Cambridge, Mass.
News Of Note:
Both team enter the contest ranked in the most recent NCAA Regional Poll, with the Cougars sitting at sixth and the Pride at No. 2.
How It Happened:
As was the case in last year's semifinal between the two teams, Clark jumped out early, winning the first set, 25-21. The frame itself was tight with seven ties and two lead changes. With the score knotted at 19-19, Marina Ramos (Guaynabo, Puerto Rico) hammered down back-to-back kills to give the Scarlet and White some breathing room. Ahead 24-23, Jacqueline Jimenez-Maldonado (San Francisco, Calif.) sealed the match with one of her nine kills.
Energized by the first set victory, Clark raced out to an 8-1 lead capped by a Mia Cattaneo (Santa Barbara, Calif.) service ace. Springfield seemed to wake up after a timeout and actually scored ten of the next 12 points to give them an 11-10 lead and after a Kayleigh Helgesen kill later in the set, the Pride took their biggest lead at 17-14.
The Cougars then went on a run of their own, using some uncharacteristically poor hitting from Springfield as well as kills from Ramos, Ana Mercado (Guaynabo, Puerto Rico) and Jimenez-Maldonado to move ahead, 23-19.
The Pride got as close as 23-21, but the Scarlet and White made a statement by going up 2-0 following kills from Ramos and the set-sealer from Mercado.
In the third set, Clark led 7-2 and again at 14-9 before Springfield fought back and went ahead 16-14 as Lauren Holt teamed with Marnae Mawdsley for one block then had two solo blocks of her own.
The Cougars tied the score at 16-16 but moments later found themselves behind again, this time 19-16. Amazingly, from that point on, it was pretty much all Clark as they closed out the frame and the match on a 9-3 spurt. Ahead 22-21, the Scarlet and White got another kill from Jimenez-Maldonado and then two more from Ramos to put the Pride away.
Inside The Numbers:
Springfield, who entered the match as the nation's No. 7 team in blocks per set (2.44) did their customary work at the net but the surprise was how well the Cougars were defensively at the net. They played the Pride to a virtual draw (Springfield 8, Clark 7) in a category that Springfield was expected to control.
Ramos finished with a match-best 21 kills and eight digs, reestablishing her own record for kills in a season – a mark she set last season (415). With her performance today, she now has 425 for the season and 1,118 for her career.
Both Jimenez-Maldonado and Mercado each finished with nine kills, while Rachel Webb (Celina, Texas) notched a double-double with 38 assists and 13 digs.
Savannah Sanford (San Anselmo, Calif.) totaled a team-best 15 digs, while Cattaneo added 13 of her own.
Hayley Kmetz led the Springfield offense with 11 kills and ten digs defensively. Both Anagabrielle Sanchez and Mawdsley had 17 digs, while Mawdsley doled out 32 assists.
Clark will face top-seeded MIT on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. in the conference championship match. It will be a rematch of a regular season showdown that saw the Engineers escape with 3-2 win in which the fifth set was won 16-14.