NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – The Salisbury University volleyball team's season came to an end on Thursday night at the hands of No. 23 and top-seeded Christopher Newport University 3-1 in the semifinal round of the Capital Athletic Conference Volleyball Tournament. It marked the fifth time in the last five years these two programs have met in the playoffs with Christopher Newport picking up the victory.
Both teams battled in the opening set with the Captains just edging out the Sea Gulls for a 25-23 victory. Each side was equally matched as Salisbury totaled 11 kills while Christopher Newport recorded 13. Three times in the opening frame the maroon and gold held a three-point lead early in the set but each time the Captains managed to rally back. After an 18-18 tie back-to-back points from the Gulls off a Nicole Venturelli kill and a Hailey Dougherty service ace pushed Salisbury out to a 20-18 lead and within five points of winning the opening set. A kill from Kaitlyn Shea just two points later stretched the maroon and gold advantage to three, 22-19. However, Christopher Newport was unfazed and battled all the way back scoring six of the final seven points in the set to take a 1-0 lead.
Salisbury rallied back in the second set to knot the match at one apiece with a 25-18 win. The Sea Gulls fell behind early, 6-3, but fought back to take a 15-9 lead midway through the set. The 12-3 scoring run saw kills from three different players and service aces from both Shea and Amanda Rodriguez. Christopher Newport managed to cut the deficit to just three late in the match but a 5-1 scoring run ended the set and left the match leveled at one all. As a team the Gulls tallied just nine kills but only recorded three attacking errors while holding the Captains to a hitting percentage of .077 and forcing eight attacking errors.
However, it was not meant to be as Christopher Newport captured the next two sets by scores of 25-18 and 25-13 to secure the victory and punch its ticket to the CAC championship match. In the third set the Gulls managed to keep pace with the Captains battling back to knot the match at 14-14 after falling behind early. After pulling within two, 18-16, late in the set Christopher Newport found its offensive rhythm and embarked on a 7-2 scoring run to close out the set and take the 2-1 lead before closing out the match one set later.
Overall, Venturelli led the Salisbury attack totaling 21 kills, her fourth 20 plus kills match of the season, on 63 total attacks. Gianna Savarese was the closet player to Venturelli in kills posting seven while recording a team-best hitting percentage of .263. Rachel Dubbs and Alexis Howatt finished the match with 22 and 17 assists respectively.
On the defensive side Dougherty finished the night with a team-best 22 digs while Rodriguez posted 11 of her own. Shea, Savarese, and Carley Cleland combined for 13 of the Sea Gulls 15 blocks for the evening.
With the win the Captains advance to the 2017 CAC championship match to be played on Saturday, November 4.