Nov. 22, 2009

Courtesy of Cal State San Bernardino Athletics

Host Cal State San Bernardino played its way into the NCAA National Championship of Division II volleyball for the second straight year with a 3-0 sweep of Cal State L.A. Saturday night before a sold-out, standing room only crowd of 604 in Coyote Gymnasium.

The Coyotes, the No. 1 seed for the tournament, improved to 32-1 on the season while No. 6 seed Cal State L.A. finished at 23-9. It was CSUSB's 31st straight win at home.

Cal State San Bernardino will face off against South Region champion Tampa on Dec. 3 in the NCAA quarterfinals at a site to be determined. It will be the fourth trip to the national tournament for the Coyotes and second in a row.

Senior outside hitter Ashtin Hall came up big for the Coyotes with a match-high 13 kills on .522 hitting with two blocks while junior outside hitter Jane Chafeh had 12 kills, 11 digs and a block assist. All-America setter Sara Hoffman had 31 assists and 13 digs.

The Golden Eagles were led by freshman middle Marquis Mora with nine kills on .571 hitting.

CSUSB broke on top 25-18, then trailed 13-7 in the second set until sophomore Kelcie Tolan was inserted to serve and the Coyotes proceeded to rattle off 11 straight points to take the momentum away from L.A. at 18-13. CSUSB went on to take the set 25-18 and won the third set 25-18.

After NCAA representative Tricia Haddock of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference presented the regional championship trophy to Head Coach Kim Cherniss and the team, the 12-team regional all-tournament team was announced.

Coyotes voted to the team were Chafeh, Hall, Hoffman, sophomore Megan Johnson, freshman Camille Smith and sophomore Kelcie Tolan. Representing Cal State L.A. were Gabriela Bulawczyk, Mary Laupepa, Zuzana Ciznova, Kaylynne DeLaRosa and Stefanie Gay along with Jackie Matthiesen of semifinalist Alaska-Anchorage.

"That was a big momentum change," said Hall of Tolan's service run. "And in volleyball that's a big deal. She served well coming out of two timeouts by them and had a couple aces. It's the kind of thing you take and run with it."

Hoffman said her team "fought to the last point. If there is anything we have learned over the last four years it's to never give up."

Cherniss said of her team that hit .298 for the match and had the statistical edge in every category - 42-26 in kills, 40-24 in assists, 43-39 in digs and 6.0 to 3.5 in blocking - "I feel we have reached the best discipline level that we have had all year right now. Ashtin and Jane (Chafeh) are such a force at left back and Camille is so quick and covers so much court. It's the best team defense we've ever played - great fundamental defense and spontaneous plays as well. We scrambled real well when we had to"

Chafeh, one of the top five kill artists in the nation, had 42 swings and put down only 12 balls for .143 hitting, well below her season percentage. "Our motto for Jane is if it's not on the wood, she will hit it," said Cherniss. "This team has been relentless and on point since August," said Cherniss. "They know what it takes. They wanted this opportunity to play for a national title and they went out and took it."

Cal State L.A. Coach Randi Smart said of the Coyotes, "They came at us very strong and they constantly put pressure on us, and that's a tribute to Kim and Danny (associate head coach Danny Scott). We're still a young team. San Bernardino left us some openings and when we see those we have to go. Tonight it seemed like we were trying to win the match with every serve. Being here and not executing was tough but we have a strong core group returning next year and this will be a lesson learned for them."

This was Cal State San Bernardino's 10th straight regional final and their fourth victory and second at home in the six regionals that CSUSB has hosted since 2000.

The team improved its regional tournament record to 24-6 over the 10-year span.