BACK ON TOP! JWU VOLLEYBALL BEATS RIVIER 3-2 FOR GNAC TITLE
NASHUA, NH– Since the Johnson & Wales University women's volleyball team won the GNAC title in 2010, Rivier University has been the top dog in the league. A cat is back on top as the second-seeded Wildcats upset the top-seeded Raiders, 3-2 (19-25, 25-21, 25-19, 19-25, 15-10) on Saturday to claim the conference championship.
Johnson & Wales: 23-7
Either Johnson & Wales or Rivier has played in every one of the 19 GNAC Tournament Finals. The Wildcats pulled even with the Raiders as they claimed their six conference championship. Last year, JWU lost a 3-1 decision to RU in the finals.
Freshman Emily Kalmink (Byron City, Mich.) was named Tournament MVP after a tremendous game offensively and defensively. She recorded her first collegiate double-double with 12 kills and 14 digs as well as eight blocks.
Blocking and the presence of JWU's middle blocker was the difference in the game. In the biggest match of the season, the Wildcats had a season-high 12 blocks. Kalmink had a season-high eight rejections, including three in the fifth set. Freshman Nastasia Kapustin (West Nyack, NY) also had a career-high with six blocks.
Kapustin continues to lead the Wildcat offense as she had a match-high 14 kills to go along with eight digs. The rookie outside hitter has recorded double-digit kills in her last five matches. She was named to the All-Tournament team. Rounding out the Wildcats on the All-Tournament team was setter Kellen Tensen (New Canaan, Conn.).
The Wildcats showed they were there to play late in the second set. Tied 21-21, JWU got kills from Kalmink and Starsha Tunstall (East Providence, RI) and a Marissa Bunnewith (Millbury, Mass.) ace to win the set. Tunstall served three-straight points at the end of the third set to put the Wildcats up 2-1.
Johnson & Wales went up 9-5 in the fifth set on a block by Kalmink and Bunnewith, but Rivier fought back within in a point, 10-9. Senior Paula Cadavid (Pawtucket, RI) got a kill then served three straight points to distance the Wildcats and bring home the championship.
Rivier had been nearly unbeatable in GNAC play and at home this year. Prior to today's match, the Raiders had only lost two sets to GNAC opponents. It was the Raiders first loss at home since September 26.
"I think our resilience started to show at the end of the fourth set. We fought back just enough to swing the momentum back our way. It's always nice to be up at the switch then we just held tight and grinded it out."
"Our serving was tough at the end. We missed a few, but we really put pressure on their serve receive. We did a great job of shutting down their middles."
"Our three freshmen showed a ton of composure in that moment. Emily was well deserving of Tournament MV. She hasn't played all six rotations in a month so she really rose to the occasion."
"The seniors from last year set the stage for this championship. By coming here last year and being competitive, it allowed this year's seniors to say 'We can do it. We can come into this gym and knock them off.' These seniors put in a lot of hard work to get this program back to a championship."
-JWU Head Coach Nancy Somera
The Wildcats will find out their first round NCAA Tournament opponent at 11 a.m. on Monday when the bracket is announced.