SALISBURY, Md. – For the seventh time in program history Salisbury University and York College of Pennsylvania met in the Capital Athletic Conference tournament with Salisbury claiming the match by the final of 3-2. For anyone who was present for the Salisbury vs. York match on October 20, it was déjà vu all over again. For the second time this season the Sea Gulls and Spartans went to a thrilling fifth set after the Gulls rallied back from a 2-0 deficit. Only this time it was Salisbury coming out on top to complete the dramatic comeback.
It is just the second time in program history that the maroon and gold have gone down 2-0 in a playoff match and come back to win 3-2. The last time Salisbury accomplished that feat was November 7, 2002 against none other than York. The Sea Gulls now own a 4-3 record over the Spartans in the playoffs while holding a 3-1 lead in five set matches with the win tonight.
York took the 2-0 lead behind victories in the opening two sets by scores of 25-20 and 25-16. In each set Salisbury struggled to get any offensive rhythm going, totaling 22 kills but combining for 16 attacking errors, and didn't manage to record a hitting percentage better than .108.
However, the Sea Gulls managed to get back into the match with a hard fought 25-19 victory in the third set. As a team, the Gulls totaled 11 kills and a hitting percentage of just .167, but defensively the maroon and gold held the Spartans to just seven kills and a hitting percentage of .000. Salisbury never trailed in the set, building its largest lead of the match to that point, 19-13, after an opening back-and-forth. The Sea Gulls managed to open the lead behind kills from three different players, including two from freshman middle hitter Kaitlyn Shea.
After York rallied back to make it a 20-19 score line in the third set, the maroon and gold ran off the final five points behind kills from Gianna Savarese and Lacey Swartout to stave off elimination and push the match into another set.
Salisbury used the fourth set and new life to its advantage, picking up another 25-19 victory. After another initial back-and-forth to start the set that never saw either team build a lead greater than five, the Sea Gulls finally broke through for a 19-13 lead and a chance to push the match into a decisive fifth set.
A service ace from Amanda Rodriguez pushed the advantage to seven before York would rally back to cut the deficit to 22-17. However, the Spartans would not get any closer as Salisbury closed out the set on a 4-1 scoring run sparked by a Nicole Venturelli kill, and ending with one of Carley Cleland's eight kills on the night. The match was once again heading to another fifth set.
Just 11 days earlier it was York controlling the fifth set jumping out to an early lead and cruising to 15-10 victory. On this night, however, it was Salisbury flipping the table and racing out to a 10-5 advantage. After a York timeout the Gulls rallied off five of the next six points, including four in a row to seal the match. Swartout tallied a kill during the 4-0 run and the match was capped off with a Rodriguez service ace, her second of the evening to complete the comeback.
Venturelli led the team with 12 kills on the night, while both Swartout and Savarese each tallied double-digit kills, totaling 11 and 10, respectively. Shea turned in a solid performance in her first playoff match, totaling eight kills, a team-best hitting percentage of .438, and three total blocks. Rachel Dubbs and Alexis Howatt totaled 40 of the team's 47 assists, dishing out 19 and 21, respectively.
On the defensive side Hailey Dougherty picked up a team best 25 digs while afblock of Gulls; Rodriguez, Swartout, and Dubbs also tallied double-digit digs with 12, 10, and 10 respectively. Savarese led the team with five total blocks, including three solo blocks.
With the win the Sea Gulls are now 6-2 all-time in five set matches in the CAC playoffs and 8-2 overall in either the NCAA or CAC tournament in five set matches.
Salisbury will travel to top-seeded Christopher Newport University on Thursday, November 2 for the CAC Semifinals. It will be a rematch of last season's semifinal match in which the Captains won 3-2. The match is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.