Saratoga Springs, NY - With 49 errors on offense and defense combined, it certainly wasn't pretty, but the Clarkson University Volleyball team was able to get kills at key moments to outlast Vassar College in five sets (25-23, 19-25, 19-25, 25-21, 15-13) in the Liberty League Semifinals Friday night at the conference tournament held on the campus of Skidmore College.
The Golden Knights improved to 27-6 overall with the victory and will move on to face top-seeded Skidmore College in the championship game at 4:00 pm on Saturday, a rematch of last year's title match which the Thoroughbreds won in five sets in Potsdam. Vassar finished its season with a record of 20-11.
Sixteen ties highlighted a tight first set between the Brewers and Golden Knights with Vassar holding the lead most of the time when the two teams weren't knotted up. Sophomore Adrienne Walker (Centennial, CO) was a vital cog for the Knights first-set win, producing eight total points on six kills (on just eight swings), an ace, and two block assists. Junior setter Lani Durio (Austin, TX) played well, too, producing 14 assists. The next two sets weren't as kind to Clarkson, though once again the two squads were close throughout. It was Vassar that took command each time, winning five of the final six points in the second set and then six of the final seven points in the third set to claim a 2-1 lead. In set number four, Walker and Victoria Kirkemo (Centennial, CO) each struck for a pair of kills late to give the Knights a 25-21 win, setting up a decisive fifth set.
In the fifth and final set, it appeared as if both teams were nervous, as the nine of the first 13 points of the set came on errors by the opposition. Fortunately, for the Knights, the majority of those came from the Brewers and Clarkson held a comfortable 9-1 lead through the first 10 serves. However, Clarkson itself had a case of the yips with a service error, attack error and ball handling error giving new life to the Brewers. Vassar took advantage and clawed all the way back to within two points (12-10, 13-11). Just when it seemed that the set was over after a Bailey Walker (Centennial, CO) kill, once again Vassar lived on, climbing to within a single point after an ace. However, the Knights called a timeout and the Brewers served one into the net to fittingly end an error-filled fifth set.
Durio and Kirkemo each finished with double-doubles as Durio had 50 assists and 10 digs to go along with her two aces, and Kirkemo produced 17 kills and 12 digs. Adrienne Walker and Aishvina Arasu (Brea, CA) each had 14 kills and three total blocks and Bailey Walker finished with nine kills and three blocks. Defensively, Erika Chin (Katy, TX) had a team-best 29 digs and also three service aces and sophomore Kristen Orlandini (Fairport, NY) came through with 11 digs and two aces of her own.
"When it comes tournament time the only thing that matters is moving on," head coach Johan Dulfer said. "Today wasn't pretty but I'm very proud of how we found the resilience to fight back somewhere in the fourth set. We're happy to move on into the championship match."
For Vassar, Chloe McGuire and Jesse Ditmore each produced double-doubles, with McGuire posting 15 kills and 17 digs (as well as four blocks) and Ditmore contributing 12 kills and 20 digs. Chrloe Hallum matched Clarkson's Erika Chin with 29 digs and Hilary Koenigs had 54 assists. Taylor Mosley also tossed in 13 kills and Marie Pitre had nine kills and five total blocks. The two teams combined for 94 errors (49 for Clarkson and 45 for Vassar).