Nov. 14, 2010

Courtesy of Christopher Newport Athletics

In a battle that somehow lived up to the NCAA Second Round five-setter against Eastern University and more, the fifth ranked Christopher Newport University Captains (38-2) outlasted the Randolph-Macon College Yellow Jackets (27-8) in five sets in Sunday's 2010 NCAA Newport News, VA Regional Championship. It was the second two-hour match in as many days for CNU, who advance to the NCAA Elite Eight for the second straight season.

On Saturday night, CNU dropped top ten foe Eastern University in a match that lasted 2 hours, 10 minutes that was as much an unforgettable back-and-forth match that a fan could ask for. On Sunday afternoon, in 2 hours, 5 minutes, the Captains and Yellow Jackets entertained 770 faithful fans one more time in the Freeman Center.

"Wow! I can't begin to describe how proud I am of my girls," said head coach Lindsay Birch. "The challenge and adversity we faced this weekend was worth of NCAA postseason play. Randolph-Macon was unbelievable tonight and I was very impressed with their performance."

The stage was set right away, as neither team led by more than three points in the first setuntil Mallory Carter put the Yellow Jackets up 17-14. CNU tied it back up with three straight, punctuated by a Caitlyn Jansen kill. After a 19-19 tie, Macon pulled away, scoring six of the next seven points to win the first set, 25-20.

CNU looked to make a statement early in the second set, scoring the first six points and going up by as many as 11 points at four different points in the game, including an 18-7 lead. The Yellow Jackets did not shy away though, scoring eight straight points to pull back within three at 18-15. The two teams teetered the rest of the way, with CNU holding Randolph-Macon off the lead, but the Jackets did force extra points. CNU finally got the set win at 31-29 on back-to-back attack errors by Macon.

Randolph-Macon took an early lead in the third set, going up 10-5, and didn't look back to take a 2 sets to 1 lead. The Yellow Jackets leaders on attack, Mallory Carter and Jessica Sears, each had four kills in the set.

The fourth set typified the entire event, as neither team led by more than three points throughout, including when the deciding point gave CNU a 25-22 win. Randolph-Macon led, 18-17, on a kill by Sears, before CNU turned it back the other way to take a 22-19 lead on an attack error by Victoria Puryear. The Captains pulled out the win, scoring in five of the last eight rallies. Reserve Christie Fellows came in during the fourth set and helped lift the Captains, with four kills.

Fellows continued to lead the way in the fifth, adding five kills for CNU. After the Captains took an early lead, Randolph-Macon steered their way back on top late, going up 13-11 on a CNU service error. The host tied it back up with two straight points, followed by a kill by Courtney Anderson to put the Yellow Jackets up 14-13 for match point. After a long rally, it was junior setter Jessie Heavenrich setting up Fellows for a huge left-handed kill to tie the game at 14; then CNU pulled ahead on another kill by Fellows off an assist by Jansen. In the final point of the match, it was poignantly the two Captains leaders, Heavenrich to Jansen, to finish them off, 16-14.

The final kill by Jansen gave her a team-high 16 on the day. She was named the Newport News Regional Most Outstanding Player. She was joined on the All-Tournament team by teammates Jessie Heavenrich and Abby Hogge. Hogge had 28 digs in the win and a pair of service aces, while Heavenrich had 17 digs and 48 assists against Randolph-Macon.

"We needed every player for this win tonight," said Birch. "In particular, Christie Fellows gave us a spark right when we needed it. I'm incredibly proud to be a small part of this program."

The Yellow Jackets were led by Carter, with 23 kills and 22 digs, while Sears added another 20-20 day for Randolph-Macon, with 21 kills and 21 digs. Macon concludes it's season with a 27-8 overall record.

CNU improves to 38-2 overall this season with the victory, and advances to its second straight NCAA Elite Eight. They will play the winner of the Cal Lutheran/Emory match, being played today at 4 pm.

Stay tuned to for more details as the Captains advance to play in the Division III Volleyball Championship Elite Eight in St. Louis, Mo., hosted by Washington University. The quarterfinals will be held Friday, November 19, followed by the semifinals on Saturday, November 20 and the Championship Game on Sunday, November 21.

2010 NCAA Newport News Regional All-Tournament Team

Courtney Reinhold, Eastern University
Maria Horning, Eastern University
Raena Winton, Randolph-Macon
Jessica Sears, Randolph-Macon