POTSDAM -- With high expectations and perhaps the toughest opening tournament in the country on the final weekend of August, the Clarkson University Volleyball team was able to sweep Simmons College in three sets (25-15, 25-12, 25-17) and brought top-rated Calvin to the brink in a five-set thriller that the visitors were able to come away with a late run (23-25, 25-20, 22-25, 25-14, 15-11) Friday night at the Clarkson Classic held at Alumni Gymnasium.
In the opener, the Golden Knights struck for a .483 percentage in the first set with 16 kills and just a pair of errors as the team started the 2014 season off on the right foot with a three-set sweep against Simmons College.
Simmons had trouble getting over top the Clarkson block and ended up hitting just .040 for the match, with the Knights recording a total of seven blocks (three solo, eight block assists). Emmee Ashby still came away with 11 kills and four errors in 27 swings, but the remainder of the team had 11 kills with 14 errors in 74 attempts.
Clarkson didn't keep up its hitting percentage pace in the final two sets, hitting .274 over the final 79 points. The Knights two junior outsides dominated the match, with Victoria Kirkemo (Englewood, CO) striking for 13 kills and just two errors in 27 swings, and Aishvina Arasu (Brea, CA) had 12 kills and only two errors in 29 attempts. Kirstie Shurie (LaCanada, CA) ran the offense to the tune of 38 assists and Evanne Jimenez (Ventura, CA) recorded 14 digs in her first collegiate match.
As anyone on campus would have expected, the Alumni Gymnasium was packed for the Golden Knights match up against top-ranked Calvin College. Clarkson came away with a first set win as the two teams rocked back and forth with momentum, but midway through the sets, the Knights came from three points down to claim the lead. Calvin, down by three at 21-18, scored two straight but Victoria Kirkemo (Englewood, CO) ended the run with a back-row kill that just stayed inside the line. From that point on, Clarkson was helped out in the waning points as Calvin had three straight service errors to give the Golden Knights the set 25-23.
In the second set, Calvin began to not only assert itself offensively, but kept the Golden Knights from scoring on offense by tipping many of their attempts and creating easier digs for the back row. After a kill from Kirkemo tied the set at 11-11, Calvin rattled off six straight points, forcing Clarkson to use both of its timeouts. The strategy worked briefly as Clarkson scored four of the next five, including kills from Sierra Rhoades (Poway, CA), Adrienne Walker (Centennial, CO), and Kirstie Shurie (LaCanada, CA), and the lead narrowed to three, but a reversal on one call swung the game from a three-point deficit to a five-point deficit late in the match (20-15, Calvin) and the Knights from Michigan held on for the set win.
The third set saw Clarkson jump out to a significant lead in the early going, but the advantage evaporated quickly as the set was tied at 11-11. Calvin gained a two-point edge at 21-19, forcing Clarkson to take a timeout, but the Knights finished off the set strong with solid play from the middle and a continued defensive effort that has become typical of Clarkson in the past few seasons.
In the fourth set, Calvin jumped out to an eight-point lead (11-3) and Clarkson closed the gap to four, but overall the Knights were able to control the set. Despite a timeout to stop the momentum, Calvin scored 10 of the final 13 points for a double-digit win.
As expected, the final set went back and forth in the opening points. Katrina Lane (Seattle, WA) recorded her third kill of the set at the break to give Clarkson an 8-7 edge, but Calvin scored the next four points to take the lead. Though Clarkson would cut it back to two (12-10), Maggie Kamp pounded the final two kills to close out the set.