Balanced Attack Lifts Wildcats Over Purple Knights In ECC Semifinals

Balanced Attack Lifts Wildcats Over Purple Knights In ECC Semifinals

Amherst, N.Y. - Balanced offense has been the calling card of the Daemen College women's volleyball team all season long, and tonight was no different as five players recorded at least nine kills to help the Wildcats fend off the University of Bridgeport in four sets (25-18, 25-22, 16-25, 25-19) in the East Coast Conference Championship semifinals at Lumsden Gymnasium. Daemen, the tournament's No. 1 seed, advances to the ECC Championship finals (Saturday, Nov. 10, 6 p.m.) where they'll face the winner of tonight's second semifinal between second-seeded Molloy College and third-seeded Long Island University Post. 

Daemen improved to 20-10 on the season, securing the program's 11th 20-win season, and their second since transitioning to the NCAA Division II level. Both of the recent 20-win seasons have come under the guidance of head coach Stephanie Albano, who earlier today was named the 2018 ECC Coach of the Year, along with a trio of all-conference selections. It was Daemen's third win over Bridgeport this season, and their second in the last six days. Bridgeport, which remains in the hunt for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, dropped to 14-13 on the season. The match featured the number three (Daemen) and number eight (Bridgeport) ranked teams in the latest NCAA Division II East Region poll. 

Junior middle blocker Cristina Apostol (Bucharest, Romania) tallied 13 kills and attacked at a .370 clip to lead the Wildcats this evening. It was Apostol's 12th match with double-figure kills this season, and her first since Oct. 21 at New York Institute of Technology. Daemen also got 12 kills apiece from freshman Sam Logan (Eden, N.Y.) and redshirt junior Courtney Bernard (Lancaster, N.Y.), with the latter matching her season-high. Logan added 12 digs to record her fourth double-double of the season. Junior Meghan Ballou (Eden, N.Y.) and sophomore Allison Post (Windsor, Calif.) chipped in with nine kills apiece, and Post added a match-high four service aces.

Sophomore Georgia Wicker (Woodstock, Ill.) and freshman Isa McCaffrey (North Royalton, Ohio) continued to split setting duties for the Wildcats. Wicker notched a career-high 31 assists, while McCaffrey, the ECC Co-Setter of the Year, tallied 15. 

Defensively, Post racked up a career-high 27 digs, while sophomore libero Ali Greenwood (North Aurora, Ill.) contributed 15. 

Emily Burford powered down 10 kills, and Amanda Hennemann added nine to pace the Purple Knights. Senior setter Ellie Rich notched a match-high 33 assists, and UB got 19 digs from Breanna Jones.

Daemen opened up with a dominant effort in the first set. The Wildcats hit .302 and tallied 20 kills in the period, while limiting Bridgeport to just seven kills and a .133 hitting percentage. The Wildcats rattled off eight straight points, turning a slim 11-10 edge into an insurmountable nine-point lead (19-10). Apostol accounted for three kills in the run as Post served for seven of the eight points. UB climbed back within four (22-18), but Logan responded with a kill and a service ace, and Daemen closed the set with a kill by Ballou.

Bridgeport built a 13-11 lead early in the second set, but again an extended Daemen rally put the hosts in command. The Wildcats scored the next seven points to take an 18-13 lead, six coming while on the serve of Post, including a trio of aces. UB would battle back to tie the score at 20-20, and again at 21-21, but Daemen won four of the next five points, getting back-to-back kills from Apostol and Post to close the set.

The Wildcats weren't able to put together a long rally in the third. Instead, it was Bridgeport that built a 19-10 lead, en route to a nine-point win in the set to get themselves back in contention.

A hotly-contested fourth set opened with the teams trading extended runs. Bridgeport rattled off five straight, but Daemen responded with five of their own to take a 6-5 lead. It was a 10-6 Daemen advantage after four more Wildcat points in a row, but UB came back with four of their own to knot the score.

Later, Bridgeport opened up an 18-16 lead, but a kill by Apostol sparked a 9-1 run for the Wildcats which ultimately sealed the set and the match. The Purple Knights committed five attack errors in the run, and hit -.023 in the set. 

Daemen will play in the ECC Championship finals for the second time in the last three seasons. The Wildcats also advanced in 2016 when they fell to second-seeded NYIT in a match that was also held at Lumsden Gymnasium. The Wildcats captured the ECC regular season title that season with a 13-1 league record, the same as what they've accomplished in 2018. 

Provided by the Daemen Sports Information Department.