PROVIDENCE, RI – The quest for a second-straight GNAC Tournament championship started Tuesday night for the Johnson & Wales University women's volleyball team. The top-seeded Wildcats are one step closer after a 3-0 (25-12, 25-13, 25-12) win against the number eight seed Suffolk.
Johnson & Wales: 31-0
Coming off its lowest hitting performance of the season over the weekend versus Albertus Magnus, the nation's top hitting team was back above .300 as the Wildcats out-hit the Rams .457-to-.015. JWU also had the advantage for digs (35-19) and aces (12-1).
Johnson & Wales established the tone in the first set. The Wildcats jumped out to a 10-1 lead in set one thanks to five aces. In the second set it was an early service run by Elizabeth Hamilton (Canton, Mass.) that put JWU up 6-1. She added an ace later in the set to establish an 18-8 lead. The Rams hung around in the third set, tying it at 5-5, but a 14-5 run by the Wildcats put the match out of reach.
Setter Brylee Frank (Palm City, Fla.) kept the Rams' blockers off balance with her set distribution as five different players had five or more kills. Frank had 30 assists and a team-high four aces to go along with six digs. JWU had 12 aces –its second-highest total of the season –but also committed 12 service errors.
Leading the Wildcats' offense was freshman outside hitter Maria Coniglio (Old Bethpage, NY) with 10 kills. Middle blockers Kate Walker (Oakland, Calif.) and Emily Kalmink were next with eight kills each. Walker, the nation's most accurate hitter, hit .727.
Just like the offensive variety, JWU's defense was also equally distributed with five players recording six or more digs. Freshman libero Gianna Esposito (Larkspur, Calif.) had a match-high nine digs.
For Suffolk, middle blocker Chidera Nwankwo had a team-high four kills. Liz Kerek notched a team-best six assists and Bridget Allison posted six digs to lead the Rams.
Johnson & Wales moves on to Thursday's semifinals where it will face #4 Simmons at 7 p.m. in the Wildcat Center.