CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – A fixture in the NCAA Tournament in years past, the Johnson & Wales University volleyball team's record had slid the last few seasons. That changed this season as the Wildcats returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010. Their run was ended on Friday as they dropped a 3-0 (25-13, 29-9, 25-12) decision to Amherst.
The Wildcats' best season in four years comes to an end at 23-8. The Purple and White improve to 23-4 and will take on the winner of MIT and Wentworth on Saturday.
"It was a great season," JWU head coach Nancy Somera said. "Last season we made it to the GNAC championship game and fell short, but this year we got back and won. Getting here is the next step in that progression and next year we want to aspire to be a team that gets back in the tournament and wins a first round game. It's building blocks for the program, but we're moving in the right direction."
A strong, aggressive Amherst serve kept Johnson & Wales out of sync on offense. The Wildcats committed 12 reception errors, their second-highest total of the season. JWU serve-receive issues also allowed Amherst to set up its offense as it had a .288 to -.010 advantage in hitting percentage.
"It wasn't one of our best outings of the season, but you have to give credit to Amherst," Somera added. "They served tough and it disrupted our offense. We fought hard on defense and kept the ball alive for some long rallies, but we just couldn't get our offense going."
Playing in the final match of her collegiate career, senior Paula Cadavid (Pawtucket, RI) led JWU with four kills as the Wildcats produced a season-low 17 kills. Cadavid also led the way with nine digs.
JWU fought back to within 10-6 in the first set before Amherst when on a 7-0 run to secure the opening stanza. A pair of 10-2 runs by Amherst to start the second and third sets spelled doom for the Wildcats.
Led by GNAC Rookie of the Year Emily Kalmink (Byron City, Mich.) and freshman All-GNAC selection Nastasia Kapustin (West Nyack, NY), the Wildcats do have a solid foundation for next year. They will need to replace starting seniors Kellen Tensen (New Canaan, Conn.), Marissa Bunnewith (Millbury, Mass.) and Cadavid as well as Andrea DiPalma (North Tonawanda, NY), a major contributor off the bench.