Potsdam, NY – Coming from behind in each of the sets, Cortland showed some impressive resiliency against the Clarkson University Volleyball team, but the youthful Golden Knights put the Red Dragons and the rest of the New York region on notice with a 3-2 win (23-25, 25-21, 23-25, 25-21, 15-9) over the ninth-ranked team in the country Tuesday evening at Alumni Gymnasium.
The Golden Knights improved their winning streak to nine, moving to 14-3, while Cortland lost its first match of the season, falling to 17-1. Clarkson looks to make a move in the Liberty League standings this weekend when it faces Skidmore, Bard, Union and Vassar in the Capitol Region. Cortland's loss to the Knights was its first to a New York team since October 13, 2010.
In the first set, the score was tied at seven of the first nine possible chances, but Cortland broke a 9-9 tie by winning six of the next seven points. Though Clarkson responded with a small run of its own, the Knights would need a lot of time to complete the comeback, finally tying the score an eighth time at 23-23. The Red Dragons would take the final two points, however, to hold off Clarkson and win the first set.
There were virtually no runs after the opening 10 points of set two, as the Red Dragons and Golden Knights traded points for almost the entirety of the second set. Tied 20-20, Clarkson did its best Cortland impression from years’ past, finding an extra gear to win the five of the final six points to even the match at one game apiece.
Set three saw everything go Clarkson’s way in the early going. Leading 4-3, the Knights rattled off eight straight points and then, despite a timeout by Cortland, continued until they had a double-digit advantage. Although Clarkson had the set in hand, the Red Dragons quickly showed that they wouldn’t lie down, winning five straight points to pull within six points, 18-12. A cross court kill by Aishvina Arasu (Brea, CA) ended the streak, but Cortland continued the comeback and made the score 19-15, forcing Clarkson to take its second timeout. The break was a brief reprieve in the amazing comeback for the Red Dragons, as they came all the way back to tie the score at 22-22 on a kill from Ashley Coyle, the 15th point out of 18 that Cortland had won. Another kill by Coyle ended the set for Cortland as they finished off a 25-23 win with 18 of the last 23 points.
Clarkson could have been blown away in the fourth set after a disheartening loss in the third, but once again they jumped out to an early advantage, enjoying a four-point lead at 10-6. Cortland pulled back to within one, but the Knights rattled off three straight points to reclaim their four-point edge, and caused the Red Dragons to take a timeout at 15-11. The teams traded points and Cortland was still down four, 20-16 at its second timeout, but the Red Dragons picked up two quick points on hitting errors by Clarkson to pull within two. Two was as close as Cortland would get, however, as Arasu and Victoria Kirkemo (Englewood, CO) converted kills to extend the lead back up to three before the Knights would close things out 25-21.
In the final set, the Clarkson freshmen pushed the Knights out to a 7-4 lead with three kills from Arasu and three straight from Lauren Hutchinson, but it was Cortland that would play itself into the switch with its eighth point as Clarkson had three straight hitting errors. However, from that point on, it was all Clarkson as the team finished out the match with an ace from Kirkemo and a kill by Adrienne Walker (Centennial, CO).
“I am so proud of this team tonight,” head coach Johan Dulfer remarked. “We could have easily folded after losing an 11-point lead in the third set, but instead we stayed really aggressive and learned from our mistakes. In the end I thought it came down to winning the serve-pass battle. We were relentless from the serving line and that opened up opportunities at the net. We talk about purpose a lot in our gym, and tonight I thought the whole team brought that to the court.”
Arasu finished with a team-best 19 kills with only two errors in 51 swings, while Kirkemo had a double-double with 16 kills and 15 digs, as well as three blocks. Freshman Lauren Hutchinson (Spring, TX) also had 13 kills with only two errors on 36 attempts and Adrienne Walker had 11 kills with seven total blocks. Lani Durio (Austin, TX) had 48 assists and 16 digs to go along with two aces and Erika Chin (Katy, TX) contributed 35 digs and four aces.