Potsdam, NY - Senior Rachael Aird was virtually unstoppable with 26 kills and 10 total blocks but the Clarkson University Volleyball team fell in a five-set defensive battle against Babson College in the NCAA Division III Volleyball Championship Potsdam Regional Semifinals on Saturday evening at Alumni Gymnasium.
The Golden Knights saw a 12-game winning streak snapped with the loss as the season ended with a record of 22-8. Babson, which improved to 22-9, moves on to the Potsdam Regional Final against Ithaca College, to be played at 1:00 pm on Sunday.
In one of the longest matches that Alumni Gymnasium has seen in years, Babson College outlasted host Clarkson University in a five-set thriller to advance to its first-ever NCAA Regional Final. The Beavers had a little trouble solving Clarkson in the first set until they started tipping over the Golden Knights block. The strategy kept Clarkson honest for the rest of the match and it made for some incredibly long rallies. The Knights led by four point (22-18) late in the first only to see Babson score six straight to take a 24-22 advantage and give themselves an early set point. Clarkson recovered from those two set points, as well as three others, however, to take a 29-27 win following block assists from Rachel Reusch and Maddie Bredehoeft. The second set again saw Clarkson take an early lead (11-7), but Babson knocked off nine straight points to gain a 16-11 advantage. The Knights would chip away at the small deficit, coming within one point on two different occasions, but Babson scored five of the final seven points to win the set.
The third set was even longer than the first. Babson rushed out to a 13-9 lead, but four straight points tied the score up, something that would occur numerous times down the stretch. Babson did push out to an 18-15 lead and still held a three-point advantage at 23-20, but Rachael Aird truly asserted herself down the stretch, scoring a solo block and two kills to get the Knights to a set point (24-23). Although Babson tied the set up at 24-24, neither team could finish things off for some time. Down by one point, 31-30, Clarkson tied the set up at 31 with a kill from Maddie Bredehoeft and then took the lead on block assists from Aird and Jillian Saenz. A hitting error ended the set at 33-31 as momentum appeared to be in the Knights' favor.
Clarkson scored six of the first nine points in the fourth set, but Babson quickly recovered and tied the set at 7-7. Again, the two teams jockeyed back and forth, with the Beavers gaining a three-point lead (15-12), only to see it evaporate with Clarkson taking a 20-18 advantage late. It looked like Clarkson would win in four sets with Babson on its collective heels, but the Beavers came out of a timeout with two quick kills to tie the set at 20-20. Down by one after block assists from Clarkson's Rachel Reusch and Gillian Kurtic, Allie Puccio began a four-of-five point rally with a kill and ended the set with a solo block.
As expected, the fifth set was no different with both teams seesawing momentum. Babson took an early lead, but Clarkson came back to tie the score at 11-11 and then again at 12-12 on a kill from Reusch. A kill from Puccio put Babson up one, an ace then put the Beavers at match point, and the night finally ended with a kill from Gabby Miller in the middle.
Aird was a frightening sight for the Beavers when she subbed into the match each time, recording 26 kills with a .380 hitting percentage to go along with 10 total blocks (three solo, seven assists) and a pair of aces. Rachel Reusch was no slouch, either, hitting .340 with 19 kills and just a single error on 53 swings. Jillian Saenz found that duo for 45 of her 56 assists and also added 15 digs. Kate Isaksen scored a career-high 48 digs in the five-setter for the Knights. Allie Puccio picked up 25 kills for Babson and Gabby Miller added 18 kills. Shannon Roseen also scored 16 kills and Kristin Carosotto added 12 kills. Elizabeth Cameron found a number of teammates with 60 assists and also added 19 digs. Abby Beecher nearly matched Isaksen's effort with 45 digs from the libero spot.