SALISBURY, Md. – The Salisbury University volleyball team will travel to No. 23 and top-seeded Christopher Newport University for the semifinals of the Capital Athletic Conference Tournament on Thursday, November 2. It will be a rematch of last season's semifinal match, which the Captains won 3-2 at Salisbury.
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How we got here
Salisbury advanced to the semifinal round after a thrilling 3-2 come from behind victory over York College of Pennsylvania on the evening of Tuesday, October 31. It marked just the second time in program history that the Sea Gulls fell behind an opponent 2-0 in either the CAC or NCAA playoffs and rallied back to win the match. The only other time was on November 7, 2002 against none other than York.
Nicole Venturelli led the Gulls with 12 kills while freshman Kaitlyn Shea, who was playing in her first ever playoff match for the maroon and gold, posted a team-high hitting percentage of .438, eight kills, three digs, and three total blocks, including one solo block.
How they got here
Christopher Newport earned a first round bye after a perfect 9-0 mark in conference play while posting a 25-3 mark over the entire season. The Captains enter the match with the number 23 ranking in the nation according to the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) poll. Christopher Newport has defeated two of the three top-25 teams it has played this year, defeating then No. 19 Eastern University and then No. 9 Juniata College by combined scores of 6-4. The Captains' only loss to a nationally ranked program came to then No. 3 Southwestern University.
Christopher Newport sailed through conference play with only four of its nine matches going longer than three sets, including a 3-2 victory over the University of Mary Washington.
These two programs have met 34 times, with the Captains holding a slight 20-14 advantage over the Sea Gulls in the series. It will be the fifth time in the past five years the two teams have met in the CAC Tournament with Christopher Newport holding a 4-0 lead.
Salisbury upset the Captains last season at the Freeman Center in the regular season posting an impressive 3-1 victory over the then 13th ranked team in the nation. The win snapped Christopher Newport's 138 consecutive regular season league matches winning streak, which dated all the way back to 2006. At the time, the run ranked as the fifth-longest streak in the history of collegiate volleyball and third longest active streak.
Last time we met
These two teams met on October 6 with the Captains claiming a 3-1 victory over the Sea Gulls. After Salisbury won the opening set, 25-19, Christopher Newport rallied off three straight set wins to win the match. The maroon and gold managed to outhit the Captains, totaling 38 kills to Christopher Newport's 37, while neither team totaled a hitting percentage greater than .096. Venturelli led the Sea Gulls' attack with 10 kills while Hailey Dougherty led the defensive effort with 23 digs.
Scouting the Captains
Christopher Newport is defensively strong up front, led by Riley Garrison, who has posted an astounding 103 blocks this season and averaged a conference best 1.12 blocks per set. Garrison is not alone, however, as two of her teammates, Katelyn Newsome and Megan O'Hara, have posted 95 and 63 blocks, respectively. As a team, the Captains are holding opponents to a hitting percentage of just .103, which ranks 18th in the country.
Offensively, Katie Piper sets the tone for Christopher Newport, as she has hammered home 267 kills this season, averaging just over three kills per set. Newsome also has made an impact on the offensive side as she is the only other Captain to tally over 200 kills while posting an average of 2.01 per set.
Hello old friend
This will mark the fifth time in the last five years that these two teams have met in the CAC tournament. The first three meetings came in the CAC championship with the Captains winning all three times. The first non-championship match came last season when Salisbury hosted Christopher Newport in the CAC semifinals. The Captains won the thrilling five set match, 3-2, staving off the Sea Gulls' comeback to advance to the CAC championship.
Since Christopher Newport joined the CAC, it has posted a 7-1 record against Salisbury, with the only win for the maroon and gold coming last season in Newport News, Va.
The winner will advance to the CAC championship match and square off against the winner of the No. 2 University of Mary Washington and No. 3 Southern Virginia University on Saturday, November 4. The match will be played at the highest remaining seed's venue, and a start time will be announced later in the week.