Making it to the NCAA playoffs is a great feat in itself but getting a win is one of the biggest challenges a team will face.
The competition is stiff and only the best of the best get a chance at an NCAA title.
The Shippensburg University made easy work of University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, sweeping the No. 5-seeded Mountain Cats in three-straight sets on Thursday night from Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling W.Va.
The Raiders opened the match with an impressive 25–20 set victory followed by a nail-biting 26–24 set win. The Raiders finished off UPJ with a comfortable 25–19 set win.
The Raiders jumped out to an early 10–4 lead but the Mountain Cats answered with five-straight points bringing the match to 10–9.
The Raiders gained a point from a service ace from UPJ’s Katie Svetahor but the Mountain Cats followed with two straight points of their own to capture the lead.
After back-and-forth action, the Raiders notched three-straight points to finish a close first set.
The second match started like the first, with the Raiders jumping out to an early lead. UPJ was not going to fall that easily. It battled back to take a 7–6 led.
The Raiders found themselves down 23–19 late in the set but regained their composure and answered with four-straight points to tie the set at 23.
UPJ regained the lead with a kill by Beth Kendera but SU took advantage of three straight attack errors by the Mountain Cats.
The Raiders followed the trend of the first two matches, jumping out to an early lead except this time SU kept UPJ out of striking distance. SU solidified its first-ever NCAA tournament victory with a classic set from Maura Nolan that ended in a Jill Edwards kill.
“We know what all of our strengths are,” Edwards said. “We know it was important to pull it together and focus in. We wanted to take care of business.”
“I always know I can count on Jill to take some of the momentum if I am ever tired,” Nolan said.
Nolan and Edwards stepped up when they were needed throughout the match.
Nolan finished the match with 32 assists to go with her two digs, while Edwards finished the day with 15 kills on 48 attempts and nine digs.
SU’s Laura Plank recorded a team-high 15 digs in the Raiders’ win.
The Raiders outplayed the Mountain Cats in every aspect of the match. SU topped UPJ in attack efficiency during every set on Thursday night.
“UPJ played a really good game, served really tough and they certainly had us on the run,” head coach Leanne Piscotty said.
The Raiders will be back on the court Thursday as they take on Wheeling-Jesuit in their second round matchup, which is set for a 7:30 p.m. start inside Alma Grace McDonough Center.