SAN BERNARDINO — For the past four seasons, it has been a proven fact that to advance past the NCAA West Region means competing against Cal State-San Bernardino. The Coyotes proved that fact once again Saturday night.
Senior All-American Samantha Middleborn led the way with match-highs in kills (10), solo blocks (two) and block assists (nine) as the top-ranked Coyotes defeated fellow CCAA member Sonoma State 3-0 to capture the 2011 NCAA West Region title before a crowd of 829 at Coussoulis Arena.
“It is a credit to the girls,” said head coach Kim Cherniss, who earned her sixth regional title in the last nine years. “We played a very good team tonight that’s well coached. To play at home and play as well as we did, especially on defense, is a credit to the talent that we have. I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish and that we continue our season next month.”
The 25-14, 25-17, 26-24 victory improved the Coyotes to 30-0 overall and they will face the winner of the Southeast Regional that features host Wingate or Flagler, who play Sunday. The NCAA national championship site will be announced tomorrow upon completion of the two remaining regionals – the Southeast and Midwes.
The Coyotes jumped out to a decisive 2-0 lead with two outstanding attack percentages. They fired a .310 (11-2-29) in the opener and followed it up with a .314 in the second on 14 kills, three errors in 29 attacks.
Sonoma State got going in the third set. Trailing 5-4, the Seawolves used an 11-2 run on the strength of three kills form Allyson Sather and led 15-7.
CSUSB stopped SSU’s momentum, though, as Middleborn had a pair of kills and teamed with fellow All-American setter Camille Smith on a block and the Coyotes drew within five at 16-11.
After SSU called timeout, the Coyotes’ Danielle Newcombe, who served the previous two Coyotes’ points, helped out with an ace that was in the middle of another Middleborn-Smith block and an attack error from SSU.
That put the Coyotes within two at 16-14 SSU.
The Seawolves extended their lead to four, 18-14, but Newcombe stopped the threat with a kill and with freshman Arielle McCullough serving, the Coyotes ran off three straight points and tied the set at 18-18.
The set was tied again at 20-20, but CSUSB extended the lead to 23-20 on a combined block from senior Megan Johnson and Morgan Carty, a service ace and a kill from senior Priscilla Collings.
SSU came back and tied the set at 24-24 on a service ace from Hayley Ross. But Ross committed a service error on the next serve and Middleborn gave the Coyotes the set and match win with a kill.
“Great crowd tonight, we fed off them,” Smith said. “It’s great to play in front of friends and family. We want to play well for ourselves and in turn, that gets the crowd going. We feed off that.”
SSU finished the season at 23-7 and lost to the Coyotes for the 30th straight time.
“It took us three years of losing in the first round to win a match in the tournament,” Sonoma State coach Bear Grassl said. “It took us just one more to get to the final. We need to come a little farther to beat a team like San Bernardino at home in a setting like this.
“I was proud of our team tonight. We got better throughout the match and in each set we played better than the one before.”
Smith finished with eight block assists and Johnson had six as CSUSB had 30 on the night.
Carty had 19 digs and senior libero Kelcie Tolan had 11.
Collings had nine kills.