CALIFORNIA, Pa. — In a meeting of the two top-seeded teams in the region, California (Pa.) suffered a 3-1 loss (23-25, 25-17, 21-25, 19-25) to Wheeling Jesuit on Saturday night in the NCAA Atlantic Regional championship match at Hamer Hall.
With the loss, the Vulcans finish the season at 33-5 overall under first-year head coach Peter Letourneau. Cal U, who has played in six consecutive regional championships, entered the night on a 13-match winning streak and boasted a perfect 15-0 mark at home this season. Meanwhile, the Cardinals improve to 36-3 this year and capture the first regional title in program history.
Brandy Harris led all players with 21 kills and posted her 10th double-double of the season by adding 14 digs in the loss. Kelly Fromknecht finished with 14 kills on a .385 hitting percentage and Meghan Franz added 13 kills in the losing effort. Fromknecht and Franz also both tallied four blocks against the Cardinals.
Molly Delaney paced the defensive effort with 19 digs, tying her second-highest total of the season, while Kortney Eshleman and Sara McMullen each posted 11 digs. McMullen finished her career ranked sixth in school history with 1,197 digs and second with 171 service aces.
Eshleman recorded her fourth double-double of the year after collecting 25 assists on Saturday. Abbey Freund also helped direct the Vulcan offense by posting 27 assists.
With the score tied at 17-17 in the first set, Wheeling Jesuit scored four consecutive points to take 21-17 lead. The Vulcans then rallied to win four of the next five points to cut the deficit to 22-21 on a kill by Harris. However, the two teams traded points down the stretch before the Cardinals claimed a 25-23 win. Fromknecht and Harris both posted six kills in the set, while Delaney tallied six digs.
In the second set, the score was tied at 3-3 before the Vulcans posted four-unanswered points with Eshleman serving to take a 7-3 lead. Midway through the set, Cal U posted a 6-2 rally to increase its lead to 16-9 on a kill by Harris. The Vulcans maintained their lead throughout the set, eventually winning 25-17 behind four kills from Franz and Harris. In the second set, Wheeling Jesuit hit at just a .073 clip after committing eight hitting errors.
The Cardinals jumped out to a controlling 9-3 lead in the third set. Cal U worked the deficit down to three points on a kill by Harris at 15-12 before Wheeling Jesuit called a timeout. The Cardinals continued to maintain their multi-point lead throughout the remainder of the set and eventually won 25-21. Harris posted seven of the team’s 15 kills in the third set and she combined with Delaney for 13 digs.
In the fourth set, Cal U took control early behind a 6-0 run with Eshleman serving to take a 9-4 lead. The Cardinals countered with a 7-3 run to trim the deficit to 12-11 before tying the match at 14-14. After the teams traded points, Wheeling Jesuit closed the set on a 7-2 rally to win the fourth set and the match with a 25-19 victory in the frame.