Sea Gulls down Knights, earn trip to CAC championship match

Sea Gulls down Knights, earn trip to CAC championship match

BUENA VISTA, Va. - The Salisbury University volleyball team advanced to its fourth-straight Capital Athletic Conference championship match by defeating Southern Virginia University in three sets (25-18, 30-28, 25-17) on Thursday night in front of a raucous crowd in the Knights Sports Arena in a CAC semifinal contest.

The sixth-seeded Sea Gulls took down the second-seeded Knights, as SU has won two-straight CAC tournament games against higher-seeded opponents to earn the trip to the championship contest.

Salisbury (22-9) fell behind in the first set 4-0, but sophomore Shannon Russell got the Sea Gulls going with her first kill, beginning an 8-1 run to give SU the lead.

Senior Nikki Binetti tallied a service ace to give the Gulls their first lead 6-5, during the stretch.

Southern Virginia (21-9) regained the lead, 10-9, with a kill, but a series of SVU errors and a kill from sophomore Jordan Lawson eventually got Salisbury the lead 13-12, which the Sea Gulls would hold for the rest of the set.

Three-straight service aces by senior Michelle Meehan pushed the advantage to 16-12, as Salisbury gained control of the set in the late moments, before two-consecutive Russell aces increased the lead to its largest at eight points, 22-14.

The Knights cut the lead to 23-18, but a kill by Meehan and a block by freshman Samantha Chubb and sophomore Katie Stouffer capped the set for Salisbury, 25-18.

The second set proved to be a back-and-forth battle. Southern Virginia took an early 4-1 lead, but a 4-0 run for the Gulls, ended by a service ace from freshman Alexis Howatt giving SU the advantage 5-4.

The teams continued to trade leads through the set six times, but a Meehan kill gave Salisbury a late 24-22 lead.

The Knights forced extra points by tying the set 24-24, and the scored ended up tied four more times, before two Stouffer kills in the final three points helped give SU the 2-0 match lead with a 30-28 win; the Frederick, Maryland native finished the night with eight kills.

Down 2-0 and looking to get back in the match, SVU opened the third set on a 6-2 run, causing Head Coach Justin Turco to call a Salisbury timeout.

The Knights tallied a service ace out of the timeout, but senior Julie Poston answered with a kill, sparking the Sea Gulls on an 11-5 stretch to take their first lead 13-12, as she led the team with nine kills in the match.

Stouffer and Russell notched kills in the spurt, while Chubb registered two total blocks, one solo and one assisted with Lawson.

With the lead, Salisbury continued its strong play and stayed hot on a 12-5 closing run that included another Poston kill and two each from Stouffer and Lawson, who tallied the final two points to cap the set, 25-17, and take the match for the Sea Gulls.

Howatt led the team with 16 assists, and freshman Rachel Pierson finished with 15, while Meehan paced the defense with 18 digs.

The Sea Gulls now look forward to the conference championship match, as they will travel to top-seeded Christopher Newport University; the title contest is set for Saturday, November 8, with the time to be determined. Log on to www.suseagulls.com for more information as it becomes available.

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