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May 20, 2024

Women's volleyball wins Centennial Conference Championship and advances to NCAA Tournament

By JOSH FELTON | November 14, 2023



Women's volleyball won their seventh straight Centennial Conference Championship on Sunday.

Centennial Conference Semifinals

With a spot in the Centennial Conference Championship on the line, women’s volleyball dominated Swarthmore College on Friday, Nov. 10. Senior middle blocker Pamela Chiakpo, who won the 2022 Centennial Conference MVP, led the Blue Jays with 13 kills. 

In the first set, Hopkins took the lead early and, despite Swarthmore's attempts to close the gap, a crucial 3-0 run secured the set for Hopkins, 25-21.

The second set was a closely contested battle, with both teams staying within two points of each other until Swarthmore took a 13-11 lead. However, Hopkins mounted an impressive 11-2 run, led by Chiakpo, to claim the set 25-19 and take a 2-0 lead in the match.

In the final set, Swarthmore briefly took the lead at 2-0, but Hopkins quickly regained control with a 3-0 run. The teams exchanged points until a 4-0 run, sparked by a kill by junior middle blocker Chidinma Onukwugha, gave Hopkins a comfortable lead. Despite Swarthmore's efforts to stay in the game, a decisive 6-1 run, featuring key contributions from Chiakpo, junior outside hitter Simrin Carlsen and junior defensive specialist Evelyn Batista, sealed the set at 25-18. With this victory, Hopkins secured a sweep and earned a spot in the Centennial Conference Championship.

Centennial Conference Championship

In a face-off between the top two seeds of the tournament, the Hopkins women's volleyball team faced off against Gettysburg College. The Blue Jays emerged victorious, sweeping Gettysburg 3-0 on Sunday.

In the Championship match, Gettysburg initially took the lead with a 4-1 run after Chiakpo's first point. However, a 6-0 run sparked by a kill from sophomore outside hitter Simone Adam propelled Hopkins back in front at 8-4. Despite Gettysburg's attempts to close the gap, Hopkins sealed the first set 25-18, taking a 1-0 lead.

The second set saw Gettysburg take an early 6-2 lead, but a powerful response from Hopkins, including a crucial 8-0 run ignited by another kill by Adam, shifted the momentum. Alice Yu's three kills and a block during the run helped the Blue Jays regain the lead at 10-6, ultimately closing out the set, 25-20.

The final set began with a series of service errors, putting Hopkins ahead 2-1. The lead changed hands multiple times with both teams going on runs, creating a tight contest. However, a decisive 7-2 run, featuring three kills from Onukwugha, put the Blue Jays ahead 23-20. Another service error from Gettysburg concluded the set and the match, securing the Blue Jays’ 3-0 victory.

This win secured the program's seventh consecutive and 10th overall Centennial Conference Championship, granting the Blue Jays an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. This marks their seventh consecutive year of reaching the tournament.

The victory was a collective effort on the attacking front, with Yu leading the Blue Jays with nine kills. Onukwugha, Adam and Chiakpo also played well in the win. Sophomore setter Helena Swaak orchestrated the plays with a game-high 33 assists, accompanied by six digs and a career-best five blocks. Carlsen and Batista shared the team lead with 11 digs, while Yu had five blocks.

Swaak's outstanding performance in both the semifinal win and the championship earned her the Centennial Conference Tournament MVP award. Swaak averaged 12.2 assists, 2.7 digs and one block, securing the award for the first time in her career.

With this win, the Blue Jays are set to return to the NCAA Tournament. They will play against Lasell University on Thursday, Nov. 16 at 7pm in Goldfarb Gym.

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