NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The 23rd-ranked Christopher Newport volleyball team picked up its fourth Capital Athletic Conference championship in five years as the Captains upended Mary Washington, 3-2 (26-28, 25-18, 25-19, 13-25, 15-10), during the title bout on Saturday afternoon at the Freeman Center.
During the showdown, Katie Piper came through with a tremendous performance as the sophomore drilled 20 kills and contributed 16 digs for her eighth double-double of the season. Meanwhile, Josie Lucernoni pocketed a team-high 27 digs, marking her 24th consecutive double-digit effort. That streak equals the all-time program record established by former teammate Rachel Close from October 24, 2015 – September 27, 2016.
With the victory, Christopher Newport improves to 27-3 on the season and secures its 11th straight bid to the NCAA Tournament, which will begin next week. The setback drops Mary Washington to 19-10 overall.
After the Eagles stole the first set on Saturday, Christopher Newport retaliated. Early in the second stanza, Abby Oren drilled a pair of kills, while Riley Garrison added two blocks, including a solo stop, to snatch a minor 11-7 lead. Although Mary Washington eventually whittled its deficit down to one, the Captains hit their stride. Taking over at the line, Tiaralyn McBride sliced a pair of aces, while Megan O’Hara contributed two kills during a seven-point streak that gave the hosts set-point at 24-16. Three rallies later, Piper came back with the clinching kill off a feed from Ashley Burgess to lock up the 25-18 triumph.
Still rolling, CNU stormed out to a commanding 12-5 lead in the third frame. During the early push, Garrison unloaded three straight kills, while Piper added a pair and Katie Crofford sniped an ace. Once again, the Eagles made some inroads during the middle of the set, but Christopher Newport never lost its lead. Oren came through with a block and blast during the latter portion of the frame before Garrison and Piper teamed up on another rejection to help ice the 25-19 victory.
With their backs against the wall, the Eagles responded in the fourth. Although Katelyn Newsome carried the hosts early on with three kills and a block, Mary Washington strung together a pair of runs to steal a 15-8 lead. Later, Piper flashed her skills on both sides of the ball with two darts and a solo stop, but UMW hung on for a 25-13 win.
Facing a fateful fifth set, the Captains got off on the right foot. In the race to 15, McBride took over at the line again and blistered two more aces, while O’Hara and Garrison joined forces on a pair of blocks to grab a 7-2 lead. A mid-set surge helped Mary Washington cut its deficit down to one at 11-10, but Christopher Newport had enough left in the tank to survive the scare. After a CNU timeout, Newsome kicked off the late push with a dagger before Garrison locked up match-point with a block and kill. Capping things off, Burgess drilled an ace to seal the league title with a 15-10 triumph.
Along with Piper’s work on the offensive side, Newsome also contributed 11 kills, while Burgess handed out 25 assists and notched 14 digs. Tylar McGill chipped in with 21 helpers as well. Meanwhile, McBride finished with four aces, and both Crofford and Lucernoni punched a pair. Crofford also added 17 digs and converted 24 of her 25 reception attempts.
Christopher Newport will find out its postseason future on Monday when the NCAA releases the national bracket during a selection show at 12:30 p.m. The show will be streamed on NCAA.com.
SOURCE: Christopher Newport Athletics Press Release