November 11, 2012

Volleyball advances to NCAA quarterfinals for first time after 3-2 win against No. 22 Eastern

SALISBURY, Md. – The No. 14 Salisbury University volleyball team is making travel plans for Holland, Mich., the site of the NCAA Division III Volleyball Championship Weekend after defeating No. 22 Eastern University, 3-2, Sunday night at Maggs Physical Activities Center to claim the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship.

The win is the program-record 37th this season, and marks the first time Salisbury has ever advanced to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA volleyball tournament.

"I'm pretty speechless," Salisbury Head Coach Margie Knight said, "which is rare. We had our backs up against the wall and the fight that we put up in that fifth set, after coming out in the first two sets with a great performance ... Now we're holding the trophy and it's just fabulous.

"For our program, unbelievable; for our fans, they were great and it was just a great day, I'm enjoying the moment."

Salisbury, helped by the emotion of a boisterous crowd, opened the match quickly, blasting ahead to a 7-3 lead, including a pair of blocks from senior captains Chelsea Glowacki and Carley Todd.

"That was a great crowd," Todd said. The Greenlawn, N.Y., native was named the Most Outstanding Player of the regional tournament. "They were so pumped and so into it, their energy transferred into us and we pulled through."

The early run prompted a timeout from Eastern Head Coach Mark Birtwistle, but the pause could not stop the offensive onslaught from the Gulls. Salisbury had two kills from freshman Ashlyn Tapley and another from senior Kelly Vieira pulling ahead to an 11-3 lead before the Eagles (30-6) were able to get another point on the board.

Salisbury's lead grew to as many as 11 points before a block by Vieira and junior Julie Poston finished off the first set, 25-16.

The Eagles bounced back to open the second set, taking a 7-3 lead of their own before Knight called a timeout to settle things down. The Sea Gulls regrouped and ripped off four-straight points to tie the set. Eastern would retake the lead momentarily, before a kill by Todd would give the Gulls the lead in the set for good.

Vieira had a pair of service aces in the set to go with six digs as Salisbury pulled away for the 25-19 win.

The third and fourth sets belonged to Eastern as the Eagles took early leads in each set and would not relent down the stretch, winning 25-22 and 25-19, respectively. Eastern held Salisbury to a .111 hitting percentage in the two sets, while rallying to tie the contest at two games apiece.

Sunday's match marked just the second trip to a regional final for the Salisbury program, which also did so in 2009, but after pulling ahead 2-0 against Christopher Newport University in that match, the Gulls fell in five sets.

Eastern tallied the first two points of the deciding set on Sunday, but would get little going after that point and Salisbury would not suffer a repeat of 2009. Todd notched a kill off an assist from sophomore libero Michelle Meehan, tying the set at 4-4 before junior Sarah Hall stepped to the service line. As she did at key points in Saturday's regional semifinal victory, Hall came up huge for the Gulls when they needed it most, serving Salisbury to a 4-0 run, including a pair of service aces.

The Eagles cut their deficit to two points on one occasion, but could get no closer before Mattie Smith closed the match on a kill from Todd, taking the final set 15-9 and sending the Sea Gulls to uncharted territory.

Todd put up her second triple-double in as many matches with 10 kills, 35 assists and 15 digs and came up just shy of a quadruple-double, with seven blocks. In three matches during the tournament, Todd was third among all players with 7.5 assists per set, she led the tournament with eight aces and was second with 13 blocks, behind only Glowacki, who had 14.

Vieira and Tapley also earned All-Tournament honors. Tapley had a tournament-high 42 kills to go with four aces while Vieira was strong all over the court, finishing with a .305 hitting percentage and 27 kills. Her nine blocks were tied for the third in the event while she also had 1.5 assists per set (11th in the field).

Tapley had a match-best 17 kills on Sunday, while Glowacki finished with 11 and six blocks.

Eastern was paced by freshman Erin Hillman and sophomore Lauren Sproles, who had 12 kills each. Setter Rikki Schlager had 41 assists and libero Kelly Groff had a match-best 20 digs.

Salisbury advances to the national quarterfinals for the first time in program history, and will take on No. 9 Elmhurst College, which swept No. 3 Washington University in St. Louis, 3-0. The quarterfinal match will take place on Thursday, Nov. 15 at Hope College.

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