Volleyball clinches spot in regional tournament

By ADAM ORLA-BUKOWSKI | November 9, 2017

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HOPKINSSPORTS.COM The Hopkins women’s volleyball team won their second straight Centennial Conference Championship this past Sunday, both times against the Swarthmore College Garnet.

The Hopkins women’s volleyball team had a great weekend, notching two victories and a Centennial Conference Championship for the second year in a row. In the first round of the Conference Tournament, the Jays easily dispatched the McDaniel College Green Terror in three straight sets.

From the get-go, Hopkins took the lead in the first set 6-2 and kept a firm foot, cruising to a 17-9 lead. Hopkins would finish with a powerful kill from freshman setter Natalie Aston to seal the set at 25-12.

In the second set, the Green Terror picked up the tempo and charged to a 9-5 lead over the Jays. However, Hopkins was able to surge back with a key block from Aston and back-to-back kills from sophomore outside hitter Louisa Kishton and junior middle Sasha Gorelik. Gaining some momentum, the Jays took the set at 25-21.

The third set remained close, as the Blue Jays and the Green Terror were locked at 12-12 halfway through. However, the Jays went on a run after great serving from senior outside hitter Elizabeth Wuerstle, driving Hopkins to a 25-16 finish.

Next, the Blue Jays took on the Swarthmore College Garnet — the No. 2 seed in the Centennial Conference.

Swarthmore narrowly took set one at 25-20, but Hopkins stormed back to take the next three straight sets.

Stellar serving from Wuerstle at the start of the second set allowed the Jays to immediately gain a 6-0 lead, forcing a Swarthmore timeout. After the timeout, freshman outside hitter Simone Bliss recorded two powerful kills to push the Jays’ lead to 14-6. The Jays capitalized on several attacking errors from Swarthmore and were able to take the second set 25-16.

The third set started out similarly to the second, with Hopkins jumping out to a 12-6 lead, forcing a Swarthmore timeout. They took advantage of two kills from Bliss and a four-point scoring run to take a 20-11 lead, when Swarthmore used their second and final timeout of the set.

The timeout did not slow the Jays down, though, as they capitalized on kills by Bliss and Wuerstle to finish the set with a final score of 25-16.

In the fourth set, Hopkins went on a seven-point run to take the lead at 13-6. The Blue Jays were able to hold their lead, and with an attacking error from the Garnet, the Jays finished on top at 25-19 to claim their second straight Centennial Conference Championship.

When asked about the Jays’ momentum heading into the NCAA Tournament after their two decisive victories this weekend, Kishton commented on the team’s continued development.

“I think the decisive victories are a by-product of us playing our game. When we play like we have the past two games, we learn how to play our way more effectively,” Kishton said. “We can continue building on the great things we developed this weekend.”

This is the second year in a row that the Blue Jays are appearing in the NCAA Tournament and the fifth time overall.

Last year, the Blue Jays made it to the second round of the tournament after defeating Christopher Newport University. Their season was ended after a 3-1 loss to the Juniata College Eagles.

The team plans on treating the upcoming tournament with the same approach that they have throughout the regular season.

“Our attitude going into the tournament is the same attitude we have going into practice or into any other game: to give our full effort and play in the most excellent way we can,” Bliss said. “We want to enjoy the bonus time we get to play together for as long as possible, so if there’s any additional motivation or difference in mentality, that would be it.”

The Jays are locked in and ready for some tough competition in their upcoming matches. The winner of Friday’s matchup between the Jays and the Cougars will move on to play the winner of the Stevenson University-Hunter College match.

The third-seeded Blue Jays advance to the regional tournament this Friday at Stevenson University where they will take on the sixth-seeded Kean University Cougars at 5:30 p.m.

Hopkins Athletics will be providing a free student bus to Friday’s game. It leaves from the Athletic Center at 4:30 p.m.

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