Amherst, N.Y. – The Daemen College women's volleyball team saw their history-making season come to an end in the NCAA Division II East Region Finals tonight at Lumsden Gymnasium. The No. 2 seeded Wildcats fell to the fourth-seeded American International College in an epic five-set battle. After trailing two-sets to none, the Wildcats came-from-behind to force a fifth and final set (21-25, 15-25, 28-26, 25-20).
AIC, a member of the NE-10 conference, advances to the NCAA Tournament Elite 8 which is slated for Dec. 8-10 in Sioux Falls, S.D. The Yellow Jackets improve to 28-6 overall.
Four players reached double-figure kills in the loss. Ashley Drzymala (West Seneca, N.Y./St. Mary's of Lancaster) and Cristina Apostol (Bucharest, Romania/Targu Mures) each registered a team-high 12 kills, while Amber Drzymala (West Seneca, N.Y./St. Mary's of Lancaster) and Courtney Bernard (Lancaster, Ohio/Fairfield) recorded 11 and 10 kills respectively.
Bailey Dolegowski (Marilla, N.Y./St. Mary's of Lancaster) posted her 18th double-double to end a phenomenal rookie debut, she tallied 50 assists and 13 digs in today's defeat. Amber Drzymala registered a team-high 20 digs, her second 20-dig performance of the year. Her sister Ashley added 15 digs and first year-libero Jess Kranz (Depew, N.Y./St. Mary's of Lancaster) posted 13 digs.
The Yellow Jackets were led by Jana Potic (Belgrade, Serbia), Lauren Pires (Dartmouth, Mass.), and Diva Rivas (Tucson, Ariz.), the trio totaled 43 of the team's 61 total kills. Defensively, Mercy Rivera (Canovanas, P.R.) had a match-high 30 digs and added 12 assists. Dolores Kopren (Novi Sad, Serbia) dished out 42 helpers in the victory.
In the opening set of the East Region Finals, the teams traded points early, finding themselves tied 6-6. Apostol nailed down a kill from the middle to take a two-point lead over the Yellow Jackets. American International evened the set 13-13, taking advantage of Wildcat errors. The two teams tied on four more occasions before AIC scored consecutive points to take the 19-17 lead, forcing Daemen to call a timeout. The Yellow Jackets continued their run, scoring three more points, to increase their edge 22-17. The five-score burst featured two kills from Potic. Daemen would battle to get within three but it was not enough to catch the Yellow Jackets who came away with the 25-21 victory. AIC registered 16 kills in the opening set.
The two squads continued back-and-forth action in the second with the score knotted 6-6. AIC went on a four-point spurt on the serve of Boele to take a 10-7 lead. Amber Drzymala powered down a kill from the back row to put the Wildcats within two 13-11, but the Yellow Jackets forced a Daemen timeout after rattling off four unanswered points (16-11). American International continued their dominance, scoring another six-straight for an 11-point lead 22-11. Daemen used three Yellow Jacket mistakes and a kill from Rachel Stephenson to narrow the deficit 23-15, but it wasn't enough to halt AIC who cruised to a 25-15 win.
Kills from the Drzymala duo and Apostol pushed the Wildcats to a 5-3 advantage to break open the third set. Scanlan pounded down a kill from the right side to grow the Daemen led 9-5, however AIC used a four-point run to level the score 9-9. After trailing 14-11, the Yellow Jackets capitalized on a Daemen service error followed by a kill from Boele to pull within one 14-13. The Wildcats used a 5-2 run, capped by a service ace from Ashley Drzymala to cultivate their lead 19-15. Back-to-back kills by Courtney Scanlan (Ellicotville, N.Y./Stony Brook) forced AIC to call a timeout after lagging 21-16. The Yellow Jackets responded with a four-point run of their own on the serve of Kopren Dolores, evening the score 21-21. The two continued to battle with the set tied 25-25. The Wildcats outplayed the Yellow Jackets to stay alive, winning the set 28-26. Dolegowski ended the set with a service ace.
The fourth set continued in similar fashion, with both teams fighting hard to come away on top. AIC jumped out to a 7-4 advantage, ignited by a kill from Boele and service ace from Rivera. The Yellow Jackets outscored the Wildcats 7-5 growing their lead 14-9. Daemen answered back, putting together a 6-1 burst to even the set 15-15. The run featured kills from Apostol and Ashley Drzymala capped by a huge block from the pair. The Wildcats roared to a three-point advantage on another monstrous block from Ashley Drzymala and Courtney Bernard (19-16). AIC called a timeout after two consecutive errors resulted in a 23-19 margin in favor of Daemen. Amber Drzymala hammered home a kill to win the set 25-20, forcing a winner-takes-all fifth set.
In the final set AIC jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead driving Daemen to call a timeout. Ashley Drzymala and Cristina Apostol continued to be a force up front, blocking down a ball to lessen the gap 5-4. A four-point spout from the Yellow Jackets widened the AIC advantage 9-4. American continued to build their lead on the serve of Mercy Rivera, who served eight straight before Daemen was able to catch a break (13-5). AIC prevailed in the end, winning the set and match 15-9, to move onto the round of eight.
Bernard, a sophomore middle-blocker, and Scanlan, a redshirt-sophomore outside hitter, were both named to the All-Tournament Team for their performances over the last three matches. Bernard recorded double-digit kills in all three matches, totaling 34 in 11 sets, for an impressive .445 hitting percentage. Scanlan posted a double-double performance against Post with 12 kills and 13 digs. Against New Haven and American International she totaled 13 kills and 13 digs.
Daemen finished the 2016 campaign as the ECC Regular Season Champions, the ECC Tournament Runner Up, and the East Region Runner Up. The Wildcats finished the year 25-8 overall, the ninth time in team history Daemen has reached 25 wins in a season, and the first time since going 27-10 in 2012. The Wildcats became the first Daemen team in any sport to qualify for a national tournament at the NCAA Division II level. The Wildcats will be saying good-bye to seniors Amber Drzymala and Alicia Contreras (Arcadia, Calif./Arcadia).
Amber Drzymala will go down as one of the greatest all-around players to step onto the court at Daemen. The outside hitter was named to the All-ECC First Team as well as the American Volleyball Coaches All-East Region Team. She became just the third player in team history to reach 1000 kills and 1000 digs in her career. Amber posted a career-best 379 kills this season, while also leading the team in digs with 375. She finishes eighth in women's volleyball history in total kills with 1048, and finished her career with 1197 digs.
The future looks bright for the Coach Albano and the Wildcats, as they will welcome back the 2016 ECC Player of the Year Ashley Drzymala, and the 2016 ECC Co-Rookie of the Year Bailey Dolegowski. Drzymala was also named to the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-East Region Team and the All-ECC First Team. Dolegowski was named AVCA East Region Freshman of the Year, as well as to the Honorable Mention All-East Region Team. Ashley finished the year with a career-high 434 kills, which ranks fourth in women's volleyball history for total kills in a single season. Dolegowski finished her freshman campaign with 1202 assists, which ranks fifth in women's volleyball history for total assists in a single season.
Provided by the Daemen Sports Information Department.