Sunday, November 25, 2007

UAlbany Volleyball to Face Cleveland State in NCAA Tournament

Courtesy: UAlbany Sports Information

Albany, N.Y. – The UAlbany volleyball team will travel to University Park, Pa. to face Cleveland State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Great Danes, who captured the America East Conference championship, drew the University Park Regional, hosted by Penn State on Nov. 30-Dec. 1. The Nittany Lions, the current No. 1 team in the nation, will face Siena in the first round.

UAlbany will take on a Cleveland State team that finished 23-8 overall en route to its first-ever Horizon League Championship title. The Vikings are led by freshman middle blocker Amy Benz, who averaged 2.38 kills and 1.51 blocks per game on her way to being named the league’s newcomer of the year and also earned most valuable player accolades in the Horizon League Tournament. The Vikings, who defeated Valparaiso, 3-1, in the championship game, are also led by sophomore outside hitter Beth Grulich, an all-conference honoree who averaged 3.10 kills per game. Senior setter Mel Snyder also earned all-league recognition after averaging 12.00 assists and 2.14 digs per game.

UAlbany (23-9) won its second consecutive America East Conference title and third in four years, defeating Stony Brook, 3-1, on the Seawolves’ home court. The Great Danes are led by freshman outside hitter Amanda Cowdrey, who averaged 3.51 kills and 3.41 digs per game en route to being named the A-East rookie of the year. First-team all-conference middle blocker Kamisha Kellam, who tallied 3.30 kills and 1.06 blocks per game, and senior middle blocker Ashley Crenshaw, who averaged 3.24 kills and boasted a .337 hitting percentage on her way to an all-conference second team nod, also paced the Great Danes. Setter Brooke Stanley (10.75 apg) and libero Tawny Dahmes (4.26 dpg) earned all-rookie team honors.

“I thought we’d play Penn State but it was exciting to see that it was Cleveland State,” offered Crenshaw. “They are a team that is a better match for us right out of the gate. We don’t know a lot about them, but we will. We have a lot of work ahead of us this week.”

Top-ranked Penn State (28-2) won its last 20 matches to go a perfect 20-0 in Big Ten Conference play on the way to a fifth straight conference title. The Nittany Lions, who were never ranked below No. 3 all season, are undefeated at home and have been ranked No. 1 in the country since Oct. 29. Penn State, which has won 11 Big Ten titles since 1991, reached the NCAA Regional Final last season.

Siena (24-7) won its third straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title after going 17-1 in league play. MAAC offensive player of the year Burgandy McCurty finished the season ranked fifth nationally with a .436 hitting percentage. The Saints are making their third consecutive NCAA appearance after falling to Minnesota last season in a regional hosted by UAlbany, and losing to eventual National Champion Washington in 2005.

UAlbany and Cleveland State will face off at 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 30, while Penn State will face Siena at 7:30 p.m. The second-round match will take place on Saturday, Nov. 1 at 7:30 p.m., at Rec Hall, the Nittany Lions’ home facility, which seats 5,812.

“We came together the last part of the season,” said head coach Kelly Sheffield, whose team won more than 20 matches for the fourth time in his seven-year tenure. “We are a young team and we didn’t really expect to be here. But we are still having fun, which is a big part. There’s no question we are playing a team that had a great season. It’s going to take our best volleyball match of the year to win.”

2007 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship First/Second Rounds

Friday, Nov. 30 – First Round

Cleveland State vs. UAlbany, 5:00 p.m.

Penn State vs. Siena, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 1 – Second Round

Match 1 Winner vs. Match 2 Winner, 7:30 p.m.

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