New York, NY – Shaking off the jitters in the opening set, the Clarkson University Volleyball team rallied to take a four-set victory over Hunter College in the opening round of the NCAA New York Regional, claiming the win 25-20, 23-25, 25-18, 25-7 Friday evening at New York University’s Coles Sports Center.
The Golden Knights, seeded fourth at the regional, improved to 28-9 overall on the season, and will face the winner of Westfield State and New York University at 7:00 pm on Saturday. Hunter College, the fifth seed, finished its season with a record of 17-18.
Clarkson, appearing in its second straight NCAA Tournament after a 34-year drought at the start of the program’s existence, began the match tight as Hunter’s Kim Hirten began with six straight points, pushing the Knights into an early deficit that appeared to be too much to overcome. The same margin existed midway through the set, as the Hawks were up 18-12, but Clarkson rallied to take 13 of the final 15 points.
Set two was a back-and-forth affair as neither team was able to gain much of an advantage. A key point went to the Hawks when they led by just a single point (23-22) as Christine Luebcke scored a kill for the two-point edge, something that Hunter would not relinquish.
The third set looked like it would be a carbon copy of the second as neither team could gain much of an advantage, but midway through the match, Clarkson’s offense began to assert itself, and accompanied by some Hunter errors, the Knights were able to push out to a 22-13 edge, closing out the set with a seven-point edge.
In the fourth set, Hunter appeared to be tired from its defensive efforts in the first three sets, and that coupled with Clarkson’s varied offensive maneuvers gave the Knights a quick 25-7 victory.
Clarkson’s Sara Artus (St. Regis Falls, NY) proved why she was picked for AVCA’s New York All-Region squad, as she punished 20 kills in the four sets and added a pair of block assists. Teammates Megan Mahon (Irvine, CA) added in 12 kills and Courtney Haines (Crestview, FL) made 11 kills against just one error in 22 swings. Lani Durio (Austin, TX) came within two assists of her career-high, posting 54 in the match, and four different players recorded double-figures for digs, led by Alison Schroeder’s (Webster, NY) 30.
For Hunter, Luebcke posted a team-best 16 kills while Mallory Grubler had four blocks and eight kills, but seven errors, in 43 swings. Katina Boutis had 27 assists, and the feisty Hunter defense saw six players record double-figures for digs, led by Mary Grace Vergara’s 24.
“I thought we struggled with our serve receive and our side out to start the match, but when our passing became crisper it pushed the match to our side,” Clarkson head coach Johan Dulfer said. “Hunter is a very scrappy defensive team, and they got some unbelievable digs, but I thought we really grew into the match and played our best towards the end. I am very proud of our effort tonight. “