No. 6 Volleyball Stuns No. 1 Claremont, Marks Program’s First NCAA III Quarterfinal Three-Peat
Photo Courtesy of Kyusung Gong
CLAREMONT, Calif. – No. 6 Trinity University advanced to its third consecutive NCAA III Women's Volleyball Championship Quarterfinal with a five-set victory over No. 1 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges (CA), 15-25, 26-24, 25-23, 19-25, 16-14, in the Athenas' home Roberts Pavilion to conclude the NCAA III Claremont Regional Saturday night.
The Tigers' (28-4) third-straight appearance in the NCAA III round of eight is the first occurrence in program history. Prior to this streak, Trinity had only repeated the trip one other time between the 2001 and 2002 seasons.
Prior to the 2022 season, the Tigers had never defeated the top-ranked NCAA III team by the American Volleyball Coaches Association since the weekly poll began in 1992. Saturday's victory claimed the second such occurrence this season after defeating reigning NCAA III champion, then-No. 1 University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in the Trinity National Invitational.
By moving on to the 2022 NCAA III final site, Trinity marked the eighth season since 1999 of making the national quarterfinal, with three of the last seven moving at least one round further including the 1999 NCAA III championship final.
The Tigers found success from both pins Saturday as senior rightside Sara Flynn (Seattle, Wash. / Roosevelt) and junior outside hitter Mackenzie Logan (Calgary, Alberta / Bishop Carroll) each logged a team-high 15 kills. Flynn's mark came on a .345 hitting clip while Logan chipped in on six blocks.
Senior middle blocker Brette Thornton (Rockwall, Texas / Rockwall) patrolled in between the powerful offensive displays on the pins to tie a career-high with eight blocks to go along with eight kills.
Senior setter Marisa Amarino (Calabasas, Calif. / Notre Dame) was one of four Tigers to reach double-digit digs for her sixth career double-double, third this season, with 12 digs to go with 29 assists on the night. First-year libero Jenna Rodriguez led the back row with 19 digs.
No. 6 Trinity Volleyball will head to Pittsburgh in preparation for the NCAA III quarterfinal round Wednesday at UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse on the campus of NCAA I Duquesne University. The final eight teams will be re-seeded ahead of the event.
The Tigers opened up Saturday's regional finale in unfamiliar territory, even in comparison to the last meeting of Region 10 juggernauts on September 10, as they faced an 11-2 run by the Athenas that saw the host go up 21-10 en route to a first-set defeat for Trinity. In the first meeting two month prior, the Tigers had earned their one set against Claremont-M-S in the first, 25-22.
The adversity continued early into the second frame for Trinity, down 8-4, but a Logan kill kickstarted a 7-2 response for the Tigers for an 11-10 advantage. Another Logan kill later led to the largest margin of the frame, 20-16, enough for Trinity to hang on for a 26-24 second-set tally.
The momentum carried through to start the third as the Tigers marched out to an 8-4 advantage, only for the tide to turn back to the home crowd for five straight points. The score was levelled four times between 9-9 and 14-14 though a service ace from Trinity Herrera (San Antonio, Texas / Clark) took Trinity's final lead at 15-14 to ride on for a 25-23 third set and a 2-1 match lead.
As the pendulum continued to seek the middle, the Tigers and Athenas logged tied scores in all but one of the first nine opportunities but a Claremont timeout trailing Trinity, 11-9, opened up the first notable run since early in the second set, a 7-1 stretch that led to a 16-12 margin that the Tigers never rallied from prior to the 25-19 equalizer for the Athenas.
As tension increased for the winner-take-all fifth, tied scores were logged at all but one chance from 1-1 to 11-11 until a Thornton-Flynn combo block hushed the crowd at Roberts Pavilion and forced a Claremont timeout, 13-11 Trinity. Up 15-14 after a Sarah Williammee (Denver, Colo. / East) out of a Trinity timeout, the Tigers relied upon SCAC Freshman of the Year Reagan Whatley (The Woodlands, Texas / The Woodlands) to finish the job and close the curtain on the last remaining undefeated season in any level of NCAA Volleyball this year.
All-NCAA III Claremont Regional
At the conclusion of this weekend's action, tournament MVP honors were awarded to Flynn and she was joined by Amarino and Logan on the weekend's all-tournament squad.
A Quick Look at the Bracket…
Trinity is one of three programs from last year's NCAA III Quarterfinals to make a return to the final championship site, alongside No. 2 Juniata College (PA) and No. 18 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, though those are not the only two of the final eight programs that qualify under the "familiar faces" category.
The Tigers have faced all but one of the other seven remaining programs since the start of the 2021 season: No. 20 Hope College (MI). Trinity defeated the second-ranked Eagles on September 16 (3-1), No. 16 Transylvania University on September 3 (3-0) and then-No. 7 Johns Hopkins University (MD) in the first five-set match of the season.
During the 2021 campaign, the Tigers hosted now-No. 4 University of Northwestern-St. Paul for a Trinity sweep on September 17, 2021, visited No. 18 MIT for another sweep on October 9, then took out now-No. 8 New York University for the NCAA III Hoboken Regional title in four sets.
No. 6 Volleyball will battle a to-be-determined opponent from the group of seven listed above on Wednesday in western Pennsylvania. More details on the bracket, matchups and championship site to be announced early next week.