LANCASTER, Pa. – It was a record-setting weekend for the Saint Elizabeth volleyball team who closed out pool play in the North Eastern Athletic Conference this past weekend by sweeping three matches to set a program record for victories.
In their first match of the weekend on Friday night, Saint Elizabeth broke the program record set in 2011 with its 18th victory of the season, defeating Morrisville State 3-1 (25-17, 26-24, 22-25, 20-25).
More fireworks continued on Saturday when the Screaming Eagles (20-7, 6-5 NEAC) rolled past Wilson 3-0 (25-19, 25-14, 25-21) and later in the afternoon pulled off its biggest win of the season, sweeping SUNY IT 3-0 (25-20, 25-20, 25-19) to run its season-high winning streak to eight consecutive matches and reach the 20-win plateau for the first time.
In the process, Saint Elizabeth finished above .500 in NEAC play for the first time ever. The Screaming Eagles finished tied for sixth place in the NEAC; the top six teams make the conference tournament following the regular season. But Penn State Abington (also 6-5) tied with CSE for sixth place in the standings, the Nittany Lions advance to the NEAC playoffs per the first conference-mandated tie-breaker (head-to-head competition). PSU Abington narrowly defeated CSE, 3-2 (25-22, 25-21, 20-25, 18-25, 16-14) on Sept. 26.
In the Friday match, CSE and Morrisville were locked in a tight contest early on with both offenses being very efficient (10-10). In the first set, Screaming Eagles outside hitter Katie Cooper’s kill stopped a minor Mustang run that put the Eagles within 3 at 11-14 and started a 10-1 run (21-15) for Saint Elizabeth that turned the set in the Eagles favor. Three aces by Jenae Goodson and a pair of Subhana Wrights’ kills fueled the run that led to the 25-17 set win.
The second set was tight again. A Kiara Francisco block and a kill by outside hitter Kareemah Muhammad got the Eagles even at 19 all and sparked a late run by CSE that put the Eagles in a position to win the set. Morrisville made a late run to tie the score at 24 all but a key hitting errors out of the right side by Morrisville gave the set to CSE at 26-24.
CSE had the victory within its grasp in set 3 but the serving game faltered in the middle part of the set and it allowed the Mustangs to go on a 13-4 run that gave Morrisville a 17-14 lead. Morrisville played well down the stretch and stayed alive with a 25-22 set win.
The Eagles raced out to an 11-5 lead in the fourth set and after the Mustangs got within 23-20 a key Wrights block – her fifth of the match — cut the rally short and after a Muhammad kill the set, and match, were over with CSE taking the set 25-20.
Amy Cooper dished out 27 assists with Wrights and Muhammad hitting for 10 kills apiece. Libero Rachel Hausler led the defensive efforts with 24 digs and a team leading 94% pass efficiency. Defensive specialists Nashlly Sokoli and Goodson led the serving attack with three aces apiece and combined for seven digs.
On Saturday, Saint Elizabeth rolled past the Wells College Express and pounded out 27 kills for the match. Wrights and Katie Cooper led the team with 19 kills as the team relied on their efficiency to stymie repeated Wells College runs (Wrights .375 hitting percentage, Cooper .200).
From the service line, the duo of Goodson and Sokoli led the Eagles with seven of the team’s 11 aces while Hausler and Amy Cooper had 10 digs each defensively. Amy Cooper led a balanced offense with 23 assists.
With NEAC playoffs a possibility, the Screaming Eagles needed a win over fourth-place SUNY IT to keep the dream alive. Deadlocked at 11 in the first set Saturday, the Eagles benefited from a couple of Wildcat errors and a Katie Cooper kill to open a three-point lead at 14-11. Both teams traded points for most of the set and the Eagles found themselves up by the same 3 point cushion late in the set at 20-17. A Wrights’ kill sandwiched between two of Muhammad’s kills, while a key block by Amy Cooper and Kiara Francisco helped CSE close out the first set on a 5-3 run that gave them a 25-20 set win.
The Eagles and the Wildcats wrote a similar script in the second set. Although the Eagles jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead, SUNY IT took the lead at 5-4 before a Wrights kill tied the score again. Saint Elizabeth posted four more kills — three by Muhammad and one by Ireyah Stevens — to give the Eagles a 10-6. SUNY IT would fight back to within18-16 but an attack error out of the right side helped the Eagles go back on top by 20-17. Jenae Goodson stepped up and hit an ace as teammates and a CSE 5-3 run closed out the set 25-20.
The Eagles jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the third set, again behind three kills from middle Wrights. The CSE lead expanded to 12-3 midway through the set and two kills from Muhammad late in the set sealed the milestone victory 25-19.
Wrights and Muhammad combined for 33 kills and a .250 hitting percentage to lead the Screaming Eagles offense. Hausler had 20 digs and perfect 100% serve receive percentage while Amy Cooper ran a balanced offense again, posting up 32 assists with 10 digs.
Saint Elizabeth has three matches left in the 2012 regular season. The Screaming Eagles will travel to New Jersey City on Tuesday for a 7 p.m. match before playing its final regular season home match on Friday night against Cooper Union. First serve is set for 7 p.m. as the Screaming Eagles will host its annual “Think Pink” match. CSE concludes the regular season slate on Tuesday, Oct. 30 with a road match in Philadelphia at Rosemont College.