FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Courtesy of JWU Athletics Communications
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Winning a championship is hard. Repeating is even more difficult. To go undefeated while defending is nearly unfathomable. The Johnson & Wales University women's volleyball team accomplished all of that on Saturday. The Wildcats ran their winning streak to 33 matches as they defeated Rivier, 3-1 (27-25, 25-20, 21-25, 25-19), to claim their second-straight GNAC championship.
Johnson & Wales: 33-0
Brylee Frank (JWU): 47 Assists, 13 Digs, 8 Kills
Emily Kalmink (JWU): 15 Kills, 5 Blocks, .333 Hitting %
Kate Walker (JWU):14 Kills, 2 Blocks, .429 Hitting %
Dana Mott (RIV): 18 Kills, .550 Hitting %
The victory gives Johnson & Wales the conference's automatic bid into next week's NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats claimed their seventh conference championship, the most of any volleyball program in the GNAC.
It's the seventh time JWU and Rivier have met for the conference crown. With today's victory, Johnson & Wales now has a 4-3 edge in those match-ups.
As you'd expect with a tight match, the two teams were nearly identical on the stat sheet. JWU had slim advantages in hitting percentage (.252-.250), digs (65-64), blocks (8-7) and aces (6-3).
The opening set was closely contested with 12 ties and four lead changes. Neither team had a lead larger than three points. A JWU error tied it at 25-25, but Kate Walker (Oakland, Calif.) came through with a kill then a Rivier miscue gave the Wildcats the first set.
JWU went on a 4-0 run to take a 14-12 lead midway through the second set, thanks to Maria Coniglio's (Old Bethpage, NY) service run and didn't look back the rest of the set. The margin grew to as many as 24-18 before the Wildcats put the set away.
Tough Rivier serving in the third set gave JWU fits as the Raiders jumped out to an 11-4 advantage on their way to winning the set, 25-21. Rivier is the only team to take a set off the Wildcats all season. JWU had its consecutive sets streak snapped at 66.
The Wildcats cut into Rivier's lead towards the end of the third set and used that momentum to win the fourth set and the championship. Elizabeth Hamilton (Canton, Mass.) staked JWU to a 4-0 lead then five-straight points, including two aces, off Gianna Esposito's (Larkspur, Calif.) serve pushed the margin to 18-11.
Setter Brylee Frank (Palm City, Fla.), who was named Tournament MVP, had the JWU offense humming. Five different players had eight or more kills, including Frank. She recorded 47 assists and 13 digs for her ninth double-double. Frank was joined on the all-tournament team by middle blockers Emily Kalmink (Byron Center, Mich.) and Walker. Kalmink had a team-high 15 kills and was in on five blocks. Walker was one kill behind at 14.
Four different players had 10 or more digs. Esposito notched a match-high 20 and Hamilton was next at 13.
The Raiders got 78 percent of their offense from three players. Dana Mott had a match-high 18 kills while Laura Silverman and Molly McCormack were next at 15 each. Haley Macken notched 49 assists and Bethany Trevino produced 17 digs.
The Wildcats find out who they'll play in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Monday. The selection show is set for 12:30 p.m. on ncaa.com.
GNAC Volleyball All-Tournament Team
Brylee Frank, Johnson & Wales - Tournament MVP
Emily Kalmink, Johnson & Wales
Kate Walker, Johnson & Wales
Dana Mott, Rivier
Laura Silverman, Rivier
Alex Itasaka, Simmons
Amari King, Anna Maria