Losing an All-American and starting the 2012 season with one of the youngest rosters in the region with upperclassmen counting just one senior and two juniors, few would have expected the Clarkson University Volleyball team to make a fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. But not only are the Golden Knights returning to the biggest stage in Division III athletics, they are once again the host of the NCAA New York Regional Championships.
The Golden Knights (click here for Clarkson Volleyball NCAA Notes 2012) were awarded the third seed in the regional, which starts on November 9th. The tournament bracket of New York begins on Friday with fi fth-seeded Skidmore College taking on the fourth seed SUNY New Paltz. At 3:00 pm, top-seeded SUNY Cortland will face eight-seeded Colby Sawyer College, followed by the 5:30 pm match which has second-seeded Middlebury College facing the seventh seed Southern Vermont College. The first day ends with host and third-seeded Clarkson University playing against the sixth-seed Nazareth College. Semifinal matches will take place on Saturday, November 10th at 3:30 pm and 6:00 pm. The championship round will begin at 2:30 pm on Sunday, November 11th.
Without an automatic bid from the Liberty League until 2013, the winner of the Skidmore College-Clarkson University match this past Saturday afternoon would only be able to strengthen each team’s resume for the committee to consider. Last year, Skidmore took two out of three from the Golden Knights, including the conference championship held at Potsdam, yet both teams earned Pool “B” at-large bids. Skidmore again won two of three from Clarkson this fall, but the Golden Knights exacted some revenge by taking out the Thoroughbreds on their home floor to claim 2012 LibertyLeague Championship. Once again, both teams won Pool “B” at-large selection, with Skidmore taking the #5 seed and the Knights gaining the #3 seed. In the process, Clarkson becomes the first Liberty League member to earn four straight NCAA bids.
“This team has surprised me all year long, and getting selected to play for another national championship is just one more example of how they refuse to give in to the odds and embrace challenges,” Clarkson head coach Johan Dulfer remarked. “We are so proud to represent our league once again and hosting is an incredible honor. If you think of it, in essence, we are only six wins away from a national championship, and we are going to give it our very best effort to make Clarkson proud of its volleyball team.”
Clarkson went 5-5 against NCAA Tournament participants this season, beating SUNY Cortland, which was ranked ninth in the country at the time, Skidmore College, SUNY New Paltz, Springfield College, which was ranked in the top 25 as well to start the season, and Mount St. Mary. The Golden Knights’ losses came to Skidmore (twice), SUNY Cortland, Mount Union and its opponent on Friday night, Nazareth College. The previous time that Clarkson and Nazareth faced each other, the two teams went to five sets with the Golden Flyers coming out on top. The two teams also played in last year’s NCAA NY Regional, with Clarkson winning in four sets that night.
The Golden Knights are an incredibly young team, starting four freshmen. Those youngsters stepped in right away and showed that Clarkson will be a team to watch for some time. Conference Rookie of the Year Victoria Kirkemo (Englewood, CO) and classmate Aishvina Arasu (Brea, CA) each earned Liberty League First-Team All-Star status as outside hitters while sophomore Adrienne Walker (Centennial, CO) gained Second-Team All-Star honors for the second straight year. Junior setter Lani Durio (Austin, TX) had an unbalanced year due to injury, but came back to show she is one of the best setters in the region when she claimed the Liberty League Tournament Most Valuable Player award with 108 assists in nine sets over the weekend.