Shippensburg University volleyball ended its 2023 season on a down note this past weekend, beating Lock Haven 3-0 in the PSAC quarterfinals, before a hard-fought 3-1 loss to Clarion in the conference semifinals. The Raiders finished the season 23-9, their best record since 2019.
The week’s matches began with a 3-0 victory over Lock Haven on Tuesday night, winning the sets 25-14, 25-9, and 25-13. Set 1 was back-and-forth early on, but a 7-0 run in the middle of the set gave the Raiders a 17-8 lead, and they cruised from there to take the set. The second set saw Shippensburg score six straight points to take a 12-4 lead, capitalizing on another run to take a set.
The final set saw the teams trade points early on, before the Raiders had an 11-0 run to go up 21-9. The set ended on a service ace from junior Maddie Clabaugh, officially advancing Shippensburg to the conference semifinals. The Raiders’ attack percentage for the match was .300, their fourth best mark in any match this season.
Gracen Nutt led Shippensburg with 10 kills in the match, her fourth straight match with double-digit kills. Junior Kat Negron picked up five aces to lead the Raiders, and senior Kaitlyn Townsend led the team with five blocks. Speaking on the team’s mindset for the match, Negron said “We know they (Lock Haven) had nothing to lose… we had the targets on our back, so we just came in, did our job and played hard tonight.”
Friday’s semifinal match proved to be the end of Shippensburg’s run, falling at home to Clarion 3-1, with set scores of 16-25, 25-16, 22-25, and 21-25. A slow start doomed the Raiders in Set 1, as Clarion scored nine straight points to jump out to a 14-5 lead, putting the set out of reach for the Raiders. Set 2 saw Shippensburg use an 8-1 run midway through to take a 15-8 lead, controlling the set from there.
Set three saw both teams go on small runs at different points, but Clarion had the momentum at the end, scoring seven of the final nine points to go up 2-1 in the match. The final set was a thriller, with both teams trading leads early on. Clarion gained momentum midway through to go up by five, but the Raiders clawed back to trail 22-21 late. Clarion then took the next three points to end both the match and the Raiders’ season.
This was the second matchup between the teams this season, with Clarion dominating Raiders in a 3-0 defeat back in the third match of the season. Shippensburg head coach Leanne Piscotty knew this matchup would be a challenge, saying postgame “I feel like we played way above what the naysayers out there thought we could do. Clarion is a phenomenal team, they’re ranked second in the region, I expected them to be really solid. I thought we played good volleyball, we gave it our best.”
Negron led the Raiders with 14 kills in the match, with freshman Hailey Cappleman also in double-figures with 10. Clabaugh had a trio of aces to lead the team, while Negron and Cappleman tying for the lead in blocks with four.
While the season ended with a heartbreaking loss, Piscotty was incredibly proud of her team’s growth throughout the season, getting emotional in the postgame interview, saying “I don’t think I’ve ever had a team this competitive with each other in our own gym, and that showed improvement so consistently and so regularly throughout the entire season.”
She finished by looking forward to next season, saying “We’re so young, I just think that the future is very bright, and that this was a great learning experience for our younger players.”