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Clarkson Wins Marathon For Vball Title

POTSDAM – Three sets required extra points, including the deciding fifth game, as the Clarkson University Volleyball team outlasted Ithaca College, 32-30, 21-25, 25-23, 25-27, 20-18, to claim its seventh Liberty League title in the past eight seasons and the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The Golden Knights improved to 25-5 on the season and earned the league's automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament, making this Clarkson's 10th trip in the past 11 years. Ithaca moved to 18-10 and will have to await the committee's at-large selections, to be announced on Monday afternoon.

The two teams combined for 62 points in the first set, indicative of what was to come in a topsy-turvy match on Saturday. Ithaca jumped out to a 7-2 lead and held a six-point advantage as late as the 21-15 mark. Needing one more point to gain the win and leading 24-20, the Bombers watched as Rachel Reusch delivered a kill, Kristin Werdine scored an ace, a ball failed to fall in, and Maddie Bredehoeft recorded a kill to tie the set at 24-24. Those points were four of Ithaca's six set points in the game, but Clarkson had four of its own as the Knights tried to finish things off as well. Ithaca led 30-29 after an attack error by Clarkson, but the Bombers lost the lead with their own attack error to tie the set at 30 points apiece. Rachel Reusch notched a kill and she combined with Delaney Harrison on a block to end the set, 32-30.

In set two, Clarkson scored six of the first 10 points, but Ithaca rattled off six straight early to take an 11-7 lead. That advantage expanded to six points (14-8) and the Bombers still led by five late (18-13). Clarkson scored five straight to tie the set, but never reclaimed the lead. Reagan Stone made sure of that with three kills in a six-point stretch to give the Bombers at 25-21 win to tie the match at one set apiece.

The third set did not require extra points either, but it came close. Clarkson jumped out to a 6-2 lead, capitalizing on three attack errors by the Bombers. The Knights led 14-8, but saw that gap close to a single point (15-14) thanks to a solid run from Ithaca's hitters. Delaney Harrison notched a pair of kills in the next stretch to give Clarkson a 20-16 lead, but the Bombers battled back with kills from Stone, Sarah Jennison and Jennifer Pitts to tie the set at 23-23. That stretch of offense was suddenly stifled, however, as Clarkson won the game on two straight hitting errors from Ithaca.

Set number four would see the Green and Gold jump out to a 9-4 advantage thanks to strong serving from Celestial Barrera-Lopez as she recorded a pair of aces. Clarkson increased the advantage to six and led by five (13-8) near the midway point of the set. However, Ithaca recorded seven straight points thanks to four kills, two attack errors by Clarkson and an ace, to gain the lead. Clarkson reclaimed the advantage with five straight points on two kills, an ace and two hitting errors by Ithaca. Back-to-back attack errors by Ithaca gave Clarkson a 22-17 lead and it appeared as if the Knights would close out the match in four sets. The Bombers scored four straight to reduce the margin to a single point and the set was tied moments later at 23-23. Maddie Bredehoeft picked up a kill to make it 24-23 for a match point, but Ithaca twice held off match point and scored three straight on kills from Stone, Pitts and Caitlyn Floyd for a 27-25 win in set four.

In the opening moments of the fifth set, it looked like Ithaca might run away with the title, winning four of the first five points and six of the first eight. Clarkson quickly changed the course of the set by scoring the next five and taking the lead 7-6 with a stretch of kills from Gillian Kurtic and Kristin Werdine. Rachel Reusch's kill a few points later gave Clarkson a 12-9 lead, but two errors and kills from Pitts and Stone put the Bombers up one, 13-12. Match point for the Bombers at 14-13 was a service error, and an attack error gave Clarkson a match point at 15-14, but kills from Stone and Pitts swung the momentum back to Ithaca for its second match point. A kill from Bredehoeft tied things at 16, but a service error put the Bombers back in the driver's seat at 17-16. Delaney Harrison responded with a kill and an attack error allowed the Knights a chance to close things out, but Pitts knocked a point down to tie the set at 18. Finally, a service error gave Clarkson the lead at 19-18 and Rachel Reusch crushed a kill into the center of the court to finally end the mayhem.

The stat sheet was overloaded for both teams. Kate Isaksen recorded 33 digs and followed by 24 from Emma Baxter. Celestial Barrera-Lopez chipped in 12 digs and three service aces as well. On offense, Rachel Reusch led the team with 14 kills while Delaney Harrison and Maddie Bredehoeft each produced 12 kills. Kristin Werdine scored nine kills and added two aces to go along with 15 digs. Isabelle Crow ran the offense with 49 assists and also notched 14 digs.

Ithaca's numbers were even more impressive as Caitlyn Floyd recorded 70 assists, the most in Division III this year, and 16 digs. Reagan Stone's 36 kills in the match also turned out to be the most in Division III this season, and she added in 17 digs. Jennifer Pitts and Sarah Jennison contributed 17 and 13 kills, respectively. Jordyn Lyn Hayashi recorded 39 digs and Hannah Hughes added 28 digs. The Bombers averaged 15.6 kills per set, but also averaged 7.8 attack errors per game.

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