Story Courtesy of GNAC Sports Information
NASHUA, N.H. – Rivier University captured the 2013 Great Northeast Athletic Conference Women's Volleyball championship Saturday afternoon at the Muldoon Gymnasium by defeating Emmanuel College , 3-1 (25-19, 25-21, 19-25, 25-17). With the victory, the Raiders (26-8) earn the GNAC automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament while the Saints (23-13) will have to wait to see if they earn an at-large bid or receive an invitation to the ECAC Championship. This is the fifth GNAC Championship for the Raiders since 2003 and their second in three seasons.
The squads traded points early in the opening set but the championship jitters showed on both ends with each team recording multiple service and hitter errors before either team reached six points. A kill by freshman outside hitter Molly McCormack (Ballston Lake, N.Y.) followed by a service ace from sophomore setter Emily O'Reilly (San Francisco, Calif.) opened up the first two-point lead of the match at 8-6 for the Raiders but a double-block from EC freshman middle hitter Kaitlyn Atkinson (Brookline, N.H.) and sophomore outside hitter Danielle Rose (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) prevented any momentum shift.
Leading 11-10, a block-assist by seniors Morgan Peck (Sudbury, Mass.) and Nicole Boucher (Windham, N.H.) shifted the momentum to the Raiders who would take advantage of two consecutive Emmanuel blocking errors to take a 14-10 lead, causing the visitors to spend their first timeout of the afternoon.
The Saints responded with three straight points out of the timeout to cut the lead to 14-13 but a kill from Peck ended the run to give Riv the 15-13 cushion. The teams traded errors to make it 16-14 before a McCormack kill and another Emmanuel hitting error gave Rivier an 18-14 lead. McCormack extended the Raiders lead to 20-15 with a kill off an Emmanuel block to force the Saints to spend their second timeout of the set.
A kill from sophomore middle hitter Brittany Tutalo (Johnston, R.I.) lifted the Saints out of the timeout but a Rivier kill followed by an O'Reilly ace made it 22-17. Rivier sophomore outside hitter Jackie Pisecco (Chelmsford, Mass.) registered a kill to give the Raiders set point at 24-18 and another Saints hitting error would end the set in favor of the hosts, 25-19.
The Raiders opened the set with a service error but responded quickly with a kill from senior middle hitter Nicole Peacock (Warwick, R.I.) to make it 1-1. A Peacock ace pushed the Rivier lead to 3-2 but another Raiders hitting error evened the score at 3-all. Freshman Cassie Chruscielski (Duluth, Minn.) notched a kill to put Emmanuel on top 5-3 and the third Rivier hitting error of the set made it 6-3, forcing the hosts to spend a timeout.
Out of the timeout, a crafty roll shot from Atkinson made it 7-3 but the Raiders responded with a double-block from Peck and Boucher to cut things to 7-4. An EC hitting error gave the serve back to the hosts and another Raiders double-block pulled Rivier to within a point at 7-6. Chruscielski pulled Emmanuel back ahead by two with a kill to make it 9-7 but Boucher answered to keep it close. Chruscielski stayed hot with a kill followed by a service ace to give Emmanuel the 11-8 advantage. Rose and Peacock would trade kills to give Rivier the service trailing 12-9 before two Emmanuel miscues made it 12-11 which prompted EC Head Coach Denitra Seals to burn a timeout to calm her squad down
The Raiders came out of the timeout with a service error but Peacock got the ball right back with a kill to make it 13-12. A McCormack ace tied the score at 13-13 and then a great defensive stand by senior libero Jessica Amaral (East Providence, R.I.) gave the Raiders the lead at 14-13. On the next play, the Saints were blocked by the Rivier front line to give the hosts a 15-13 margin which forced EC to take another timeout to try and calm the storm.
Junior Sarah Colby (West Barnstable, Mass.) pulled Emmanuel to within one with a kill out of the timeout but Peacock's net presence kept it a two-point game at 16-14 with a put-back kill. An Atkinson kill followed by three consecutive Rivier hitting errors gave Emmanuel the 18-16 lead which triggered a Rivier timeout.
Peck ended the Rivier skid with a kill to give the hosts the ball back trailing 18-17 and they were able to tie the score at 18-all following an Emmanuel error. The teams traded errors to give EC the service tied at 19-19 but another Emmanuel hitting miscue lifted the hosts on top, 20-19. The Saints had a Rivier freeball to even the score but again their attempt sailed out of bounds to give the Raiders a 21-19 lead. Chruscielski gave the Saints the service back with a kill but an O'Reilly dump made it 23-21. A stack by the Raider and smart shot by McCormack made it match point and Peacock smashed home an errant pass of the ensuing serve to finish the set off.
Two errors by the Raiders gave Emmanuel the early 2-1 lead before Peacock evened the action at 2-2 with her second kill of the set. An ace from junior defensive specialist Christine Durkee (Salem, Conn.) lifted EC to a 4-2 lead but a kill from Boucher would even the score at 5-all. Boucher would keep it going with an ace on the next serve to kill Rivier the 6-5 cushion before Chruscielski picked the Saints up with a kill to the line. An ace from sophomore setter Shannon Dudley (Morro Bay, Calif.) followed by an Atkinson block lifted the visitors lead to 8-6 before Colby made it 9-6 with a kill of her own off the near side block. Chruscielski made it four straight for the Saints with a kill off the Raider block and Rivier Head Coach Craig Kolek burned a timeout to end the run.
The Raiders got the ball back out of the break but an Atkinson kill keep the lead at four points (11-7). Another Atkinson slam gave Emmanuel the service back with a 12-8 lead but McCormack gave the hosts the ball back with a thunderous kill. Following an EC service error, Peacock cut the lead to two with a deep kill to pull Rivier to 13-11. Peacock and Pisecco made it 13-12 with a tandem block and the Saints used a timeout in hopes to stop the momentum.
Tutalo responded with a much needed kill for the Saints to make it 14-12 but a Peacock block gave the hosts a chance to even the score. Fortunately for the visitors, the senior's service sailed long to give the Saints the ball back leading 15-13. Atkinson made it 17-14 with back-to-back kills for EC before Pisecco picked up her squad with a kill. The Raiders could not capitalize, with their next attempt sailing side but EC's ensuing attempt sailed long to keep it a two-point game (18-16). A kill from Atkinson and a hitting error by the Raiders gave Emmanuel its largest lead of the set (20-16) and forced the Raiders to spend another timeout.
A Rivier error out of the timeout made it 21-16 but a Peacock kill got the hosts the ball back trailing 21-17. Another Raider error made it 22-17 before Rose collected a kill to give Emmanuel the 23-17 advantage. A hitting error gave the ball back to the hosts but an immediate service error gave the Saints the set-point. A ball off the low ceiling made it 24-19 with Rivier serving but the Saints were able to wrap up the set as four Rivier players handled the ball during the final series to give Emmanuel the 25-19 score. This was the first set that Rivier had dropped all season in Great Northeast Athletic Conference action.
McCormack opened the action with a kill before the Saints got the ball back on a Raider error. Rivier immediately had a successful sideout as Peacock's kill made it 2-1 but the Saints rattled off two straight points highlighted by a Durkee ace to make it 3-2. Rivier responded with three straight points as a Peacock ace made it 5-3 in favor of the hosts. Chruscielski kept it close with a kill but a Boucher swing kept the lead at two (6-4) for Rivier. The units traded kills as well as service errors to make it 8-6 in favor of the hosts. A huge pair of back-to-back solo blocks by Peacock lifted the Raiders to an 11-7 lead and EC used a timeout to try and regroup.
O'Reilly served up an ace to make it 12-7 before a McCormack kill made it 13-7. A smart shot by Rose stopped the Raider run, giving the Saints the ball back trailing 13-8 and Colby followed it up with an ace off the tape to make it 13-9. A hitting error by Rivier pulled EC to within three (13-10) but Peacock made sure to stop any run with a kill. Tutalo responded with a kill off the RIV block to keep the Saints close at 14-11 but a service error by the visitors gave the ball and point right back. Boucher capitalized with a deep kill to give the Raiders a five points lead (16-11) before an unlucky bounce gave the ball back to EC trailing 16-12. The teams traded hitting errors to give EC the serve trailing 17-13 but another two consecutive Emmanuel hitting errors made it 19-13, forcing the Saints to take their final timeout.
McCormack made it 20-13 with a kill right out of the timeout and Boucher followed it up with a kill of her own to make it 21-13. Colby got the serve back to the Saints with a kill but McCormack continued her strong play in the final set with a kill to make it 22-14. Atkinson and Peacock traded kills to put the ball in RIV's hands leading 23-15 and an ace by O'Reilly made it match-point. The Saints were able to scrap together two points before a kill by Peck gave the Raiders the 25-17 championship victory.
Emmanuel senior Cara Callahan (Medway, MA) collected her 1,000th career dig this afternoon as she finished with the game high of 26 digs. Atkinson led the Saints with 12 kills and Chruscielski finished with 11 kills. Colby and Durkee were the other two Emmanuel College Student-Athletes to record double digit digs with 16 and 10, respectively while Dudley was the assist leader with 36.
Peacock had the game of her life as she belted down 17 kills on 25 attacks with just one error for a .640 hitting percentage. She also finished with six total blocks – two block solos – to go along with her three service aces. Boucher totaled nine kills and five blocks while classmate Amaral registered 22 digs. McCormack was a step behind Peacock as the freshman laced 14 kills on the afternoon. O'Reilly had the game high with 47 assists and added 14 digs. Sophomore Lyndsey Sweeney (Coventry, RI) also collected double-digit digs with 12.
After the game was finished, the Great Northeast Athletic Conference announced the 2013 All-Tournament Team. Freshman Morgan Keion was the Simmons recipient and Alyssa Drapeau earned the nod from Johnson and Wales University. Emmanuel saw Chruscielski and Callahan on the team and the Champion Raiders had Amaral, O'Reilly and Peacock, who was named the Tournament's Most Valuable Player.