SALISBURY, Md. – The Salisbury University volleyball team will be playing in its fifth-straight Capital Athletic Conference match on Saturday, November 7, as the second-seeded Sea Gulls travel to first-seeded Christopher Newport University. The Gulls and Captains meet in the conference title game for the third-consecutive season; the match on Saturday is set for 4 p.m.
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How we got here
As the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament, Salisbury earned a first-round bye, before hosting a CAC semifinal match on Thursday night. The Sea Gulls defeated No. 3-seed the University of Mary Washington in four sets, 25-23, 23-25, 25-21, 25-23, to earn a trip to the title match. Junior Katie Stouffer led the Gulls with 21 kills, while classmate Shannon Russell chipped in with 12. Freshman Kelly Surkovich set a career-high in the match with 25 digs.
How they got here
Christopher Newport went undefeated in conference play during the regular season to earn the league's top seed for the CAC tournament, also receiving a first-round bye. The Captains hosted fourth-seeded St. Mary's College of Maryland on Thursday in the other semifinal match. CNU pulled out the win in five sets (25-18, 19-25, 25-19, 27-29, 15-10) to earn a trip to the CAC championship, marking the Captains' third trip in as many years since joining the conference for the 2013 season. Abby McIntyre led CNU with 23 kills. Hannah Miller registered seven blocks in the match, while Katelyn Newsome and Ashley Rock both tallied six.
Last time we met
Salisbury and CNU met in the regular season on October 7 in the teams' second conference matches of the season. The Sea Gulls won the first set 25-21, before the Captains took the next three for the four-set victory. Stouffer led the Sea Gulls with 17 kills, while freshman Nicole Venturelli added 16 kills in the match. Sophomore Rachel Pierson registered a double-double with 32 assists and 11 digs. The match was Salisbury's last loss, before going on a current 10-match winning streak.
Christopher Newport currently ranks No. 6 in the American Volleyball Coaches' Association Top 25 poll and is looking to win its third-consecutive CAC championship. The Captains currently boast the sixth-best team hitting percentage in the country at .264, and Rachel Conway sits at No. 10 in the nation with 10.84 assists per set. She has 1,116 assists on the season. Briana Sutton leads the team with 391 kills, and the Captains have four players with 30 or more services aces; McIntyre leads the aces with 40.
Make a killing
Stouffer has been the leader for Salisbury's offense all season, ranking her among the best in the country for hitters. She currently ranks third with 5.03 kills per set and fourth in total kills with 508. Stouffer ranks at the top of the CAC with her kills per set average and a .337 hitting percentage. She also ranks second in the league in total kills.
Third time's the charm
Salisbury volleyball Head Coach Justin Turco leads his team into the conference title match against Christopher Newport for the third time, marking each season he has been at the helm for the Sea Gulls. In the previous two meetings, the Captains have come away with 3-0 victories, but Salisbury will look to end that streak on Saturday with its first CAC championship under Turco. The Sea Gulls have gotten hot at the right time, entering the title match on a 10-match winning streak, and Stouffer has put down 17 or more kills in each of her last six matches.
The winner of Saturday's match will earn the conference's automatic bid to the 2015 NCAA Division III volleyball tournament, which begins on Friday, November 13. Without the automatic bid, the Sea Gulls or Captains will look to the NCAA Selection Show on Monday, November 9 at 11 a.m., for a potential at-large bid to the tournament.