After a disappointing midweek loss to Pitt-Johnstown University that ended a school-record 15-game win streak, the Shippensburg University women’s volleyball team was back in action over the weekend against Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) rivals West Chester and Millersville universities.
The team had taken NCAA Division II play by storm, downing opponent after opponent in dominant fashion on its way to a new school record in consecutive wins.
The Raiders ended a match in the loser’s column for the first time since August 25 against Bellarmine University on Tuesday night against Pitt-Johnstown. SU returned home to Heiges Field House after a short road trip against Kutztown and East Stroudsburg universities last weekend.
The Raiders were looking to bounce back Friday night against the Golden Rams after the tough loss. The team finished strong in every set, battling back from a deficit in the first two sets to win the match in straight sets.
Blocks were the story of the night, as both teams went back and forth with blocks on defense. The two squads combined for 17 in the match.
Junior middle hitter Kendall Johnson led the way for the Raiders, grabbing five blocks, while sophomore setter Emily Hangen was close behind with four. West Chester had two players tied at the top with four blocks apiece in Grace Whitney and Allie Duffy.
Hangen continued her impressive career as a setter through her first two seasons, leading the team in assists in the WCU match with 25. She led the team in the statistic in her freshman year and is the far-and-away leader in the category so far this season, as her tally in the win against the Golden Rams brought her season total to just shy of 800. Hangen also contributed 17 digs to fill up her stat sheet.
Senior outside hitter Morgan DeFloria led the Raiders in kills, grabbing 10 and bringing her season total up to nearly 270. She also added 11 digs to grab another double-double — her third straight and 12th overall.
While the first set had its share of tense moments, the second was the deciding set, as there were 12 ties and five lead changes. The Raiders had to fight back from a late deficit, as the Golden Rams grabbed a 21–18 lead.
A clutch run by the Raiders reclaimed the lead and they clinched the set 25–23 to make it 2–0 for SU. The team went on to dominate the third and final set to grab the victory and get back on track.
In the team’s following match against Millersville, SU was utterly dominant. The Raiders racked up their second-best hitting percentage of the season (.328) on their way to yet another straight set victory (25–18, 25–15 and 25–16).
SU had 14 aces in the Senior Day match — the most since a victory over Cheney University in 2014. Junior outside hitter Gabriella Johnson led the way for the Raiders with 13 kills and two aces. DeFloria was the leader in aces, racking up an absurd career-high six aces across the three sets. She also threw in nine kills and 16 digs.
Junior middle blocker Samantha Webber also had a solid match, contributing 11 kills on a .400 hitting percentage to go with three blocks. Hangen was all over the court again, earning 42 assists — the most for a three-set match so far in her season. She also had three aces and nine digs. Kendall Johnson continued her trend of impressive performances, grabbing nine kills on .429 hitting.
SU’s five seniors were honored before the match. DeFloria, Courtney Malott, Grace Ramacciotti, Bridget Terrel and Angela Tarabrella all played minutes in the win. Terrel contributed a pair of aces in her time on the court.
With a strong junior core, the team looks to be in solid position to make a similar run next season, even after losing a leader on the court in DeFloria. The dominant win is a good sign for the remainder of the season for SU, as the team looks to make a run to the PSAC championships and potentially a deep run in the NCAA playoffs.
The Raiders enter the home stretch of the regular season with only nine games remaining. The team will will welcome Bloomsburg University to Heiges Field House on Friday with tip-off being at 7 p.m.