Stayin' Alive! Women's Volleyball Reaches First CACC Semifinal

Volleyball attacker in black jersey with score overlay.
(Photo by Steven R. Smith)

RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Felician University women's volleyball team, the No. 1 seed from the North Division, defeated visiting South No. 4 seed Wilmington (Del.) University, 3-1 (25-18, 17-25, 25-14, 25-12), in the quarterfinal round of the 2019 Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) Championship tournament on Tuesday evening at Job Gymnasium.

Felician (16-17), which was hosting a postseason match for the first time, advances to the CACC semifinals for the first occasion in the 16-year history of its program. The Golden Falcons will face South No. 2 seed and event host Holy Family University on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at HFU's Campus Center Gymnasium in northeast Philadelphia, Pa. Holy Family earned a four-set quarterfinal win over Bloomfield College on Tuesday in Philadelphia.

More information about the quarterfinals can be viewed at https://caccathletics.org/sports/wvball/2019-20/releases/1119Qtrs. More information about the 2019 CACC Women's Volleyball Championship tournament is available at https://caccathletics.org/sports/wvball/2019-20/releases/1116Bracket.

Wilmington saw its season end with a record of 20-14. The Wildcats had defeated Felician, 3-0, on Nov. 2, in regular-season action.

"Our players hung onto each other," said sixth-year Felician head coach John Chang, who earlier on Tuesday was announced as the 2019 CACC Coach of the Year. "When we lost the second set, we did not panic. We all stuck together, and no player tried to do more than simply what she was supposed to do. We took the match point-by-point without regard for what the score was."

Wilmington entered Tuesday as the CACC's team leader in service aces (2.33) and total blocks (2.09) per set. But the Golden Falcons hung with their guests in both categories. The Wildcats held a 12-10 edge in blocking, while Felician had more aces, 6-5. The hosts also hit .230 while holding Wilmington to a .045 team attack percentage.

Felician put three players in double figures in kills. Sophomore outside hitter Maddie Sloan (Caldwell, N.J./James Caldwell) (11 digs) and senior outside Raamiah Edwards (Bloomfield, N.J./Bloomfield) (seven digs, four blocks) turned in 14 kills apiece. Junior middle blocker Katie Asbery (Mililani, Hawaii/Mililani) hit .350 with 10 kills. Senior middle Rebecca Rawlinson (Cockeysville, Md./Dulaney) paced Wilmington with 12 kills, four blocks and three aces while hitting .400.

Felician led Set 1 by as much as 20-12. Wilmington closed to within 22-18 before the Golden Falcons recovered to total the last three points. The Wildcats hit .281 to easily capture Set 2, however and even the match.

The Golden Falcons extended an 11-7 Set 3 advantage to 19-8. When they closed the set out, they found themselves in the same position as a year ago at Holy Family. In 2018, playing as a lower seed, Felician allowed the eventual champion Tigers to come back for a 3-2 win.

"Losing last year wasn't the best feeling, and helped us to want to win tonight even more," said Felician sophomore libero Sierra Gallagher (Honolulu, Hawaii/Kamehameha). "Being at home tonight was a huge plus – the energy of the fans helped our energy."

A kill by Sloan and three consecutive Wildcat attack errors extended a one-point Felician Set 4 edge to lead to 11-6 and forced a Wildcat timeout. But after block pulled the visitors to within 14-10, Felician took control. Jazlyn Pipkins (Paris, Texas/Paris) had a kill and two blocks as part of a 7-0 run. Moments later, with Felician up 22-12, a shared block by Pipkins and Kali Vodrazka (Bayonne, N.J./Bayonne (four kills, six blocks) followed by a Gallagher ace brought the home crowd to its feet in anticipation.

The Golden Falcon faithful would not have to wait long. During the next rally, a Wildcat blocker was called for a net violation during a Sloan attack, setting off a celebration on the Felician side of the net. Freshman setter Miquela Martinez (Santa Fe, N.M./St. Michael's) totaled 38 assists, seven digs and two aces.

Felician earned its first win over Wilmington since 2007 and its first ever in Rutherford. It ended a string of 13 consecutive losses to the Wildcats.

Pipkins hit .600 with six kills and nine blocks, while Gallagher amassed 23 digs and six assists. Both players achieved personal milestones during the night. Pipkins, already the Golden Falcons' all-time leader in total blocks. became the first player in program history to reach 200 (currently 202). Gallagher, meanwhile, is the third member of Felician's 1,000-dig club. Her 1,021 trail only the 1,593 of Erica Moore and Amber Doran's 1,346. Both players were Golden Falcons from 2007-10.

Felician finished with an 8-3 home record in 2019.

"We felt the energy and the support at home all year along and especially tonight," Sloan said. "And we appreciate the support from the student body and the congratulations that we get – sometimes from people that we barely know. To be the first Felician team to get this far is really meaningful."