Nov. 14, 2010

Courtesy of NYU Athletics

The New York University women's volleyball team defeated Stevens Institute of Technology in five sets and now advance to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division III Women's Championship. The Violets' 3-2 victory on Sunday in the finals of the New York Regional Championship at the Coles Sports Center propels NYU back to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2005.

NYU (38-5), the #1 seed in the region, and the #2-seeded Ducks (34-6) alternated set victories heading into the decisive fifth. While the Violets posted comfortable wins in sets #1 (25-12) and #3 (25-10), Stevens Tech's victories in sets #2 (25-23) and #4 (25-22), were much closer.

After being caught at 2-2, NYU was able to ease the pressure by getting out to a 4-1 lead en route to a match-clinching 15-9, fifth-set victory.

"We're good at battling," said NYU interim head coach Chris Pinto. "It seems like we always play better with the pressure on."

There wasn't much pressure in the first set, as NYU scored the first two points and never trailed.

The second set was a different story, as Stevens Tech raced to a 6-1 advantage. However, the Violets kept pecking away and eventually took a six point lead, 22-16. But, the Ducks showed their resiliency and scored the next five points. Then, after a kill by the Violets' Jessica Prepolec, the Ducks scored the final four points to take the set.

NYU rebounded well from that loss, scoring the first three points of the third set and again never trailing.

Although the Violets again scored the first three points of the next set, they could not hold the lead. Five ties ensued before Sara Budar's kill gave the Ducks the lead for good at 21-20 and Michelle Plotzker's kill ended it.

It was all coming down to a fifth and final set.

"Volleyball is a game of tides," Pinto said. "You have to take it one play at a time."

After taking that early 4-1 lead in set five, NYU never trailed. Leading 4-2, the Violets scored 10 of the next 14 points to take command of the set. The Ducks' final push brought them to within 14-9, but Beth Fionda's kill ended the match and advanced NYU into the Elite Eight.

"At the beginning of the year, our goal was to make the Elite Eight," Pinto revealed. "Now it's an even playing field."

Kendyl Dunn had a match-high 19 kills for the Violets, while Sally Downs added 12. Mina Baban's 48 assists were a match high, while Alexis Schwartz was high with 14 digs.

Erin McLaughlin, who had eight kills, eight digs and a match-high seven service aces was named Tournament Most Outstanding Player.

Holder had a team-high 12 kills for the Ducks, while Maggie Majcher had 10. Budar led Stevens Tech with 36 assists and Julia Reilly was best with 14 digs.

Dunn and Baban were each named to the Region All-Tournament Team, as was Majcher and Holder.

NYU will face a familiar foe in its Elite Eight match-up, fellow University Athletic Association rival Washington University. The Violets and host Bears have already met twice this season, with each team winning one match.