NEW ROCHELLE, NY – With a thrilling 3-1 victory over Pratt in the semifinals, the St. Joseph's College women's volleyball team reached the HVWAC championship game for the second straight year but fell short, 3-0, to a dominant Culinary team in the quest for their first title since 2008.
The semifinal matchup that pitted the #2 seeded Lady Bears and #3 Pratt Institute was a tightly contested battle that featured long rallies, 24 ties and 11 lead changes. St. Joseph's raced out to a 6-0 lead to start the match, but Pratt stormed back with 8-0 run and went on to take the opening set 25-19, hoping to reverse the outcome in the regular season meeting.
Pratt had St. Joseph's on the ropes holding two set points to put the Lady Bears at a two-set disadvantage, but coming out of a Coach Kathleen O'Neill timeout, timely kills from Nicole Rios (Astoria, NY/Mary Louis) and Megan Moran (Syosset, NY/St. Dominic's) leveled the set and St. Joseph's took two more points to steal the set from the Cannoneers, 26-24, and swing the momentum back in their favor.
Set three saw another dogfight as St. Joseph's played their longest set in recent history, winning 31-29. Both squads exchanged sideouts from the 24-24 mark, until a Moran kill and Sabrina Cornia (Miller Place, NY/Miller High) ace finished off the set.
In the final stanza, a 7-0 run midway through the set powered by three of Kim Matthews (Brooklyn, NY/Bishop Kearney) career-high 22 kills, gave St. Joseph's all the separation it would need to take a 25-20 set victory, clinching a spot in the finals.
Matthews added 15 digs for her 11th double-double of the season. Moran chipped in 12 kills and fell one dig shy of a double-double. Cornia dished out a career-high 42 assists and Rios had 25 digs to lead four Lady Bears with double-figure digs.
The long and physically and emotionally draining semifinal match took its toll on the Lady Bears in facing a Culinary team in the championship who had only one blemish on their record and had an extra 30 minutes to rest after dispatching two-time defending champions #4 New Rochelle in straight sets in the other semifinal.
St. Joseph's fell behind early and could never fully close the gap. The Lady Bears managed to chip away at the Culinary lead pulling within three, 21-18, but ultimately dropped the opening set 25-20. Culinary thoroughly dominated the second set, winning 25-9 and although St. Joseph's managed to gain some momentum in the third set, the Lady Bears would never gain the lead before falling 25-19 and watching the Steels take the title.
Moran led the Lady Bears attack with seven kills. Matthews concluded her Lady Bear career with six kills and 10 digs and fellow senior Kathy McCarthy (Breezy Point, NY/Fontbonne Hall) had nine digs and three kills. In awards, ceremonies after the championship, Matthews and Moran were named to the 2011 HVWAC All-Conference team, Matthews' second selection and Moran's first.
St. Joseph's concludes their 2011 campaign with a 14-11 record, their first winning season in three years.