After CAA loss, College of Charleston sits and waits on NCAA Tournament fate

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Krrissy Mummey, attacking against James Madison, was the CAA player of the year

College of Charleston had one of those losses that couldn’t have come at a worse time.

The 27-5 Cougars from Charleston, S.C., went into the Colonial Athletic Association tournament as the No. 1 seed, but left with a loss to No. 3 seed James Madison in the title match.

Subsequently, Charleston, recently ranked as high as No. 21 in the VolleyballMag.com Mid-Major Poll, not only saw its 14-match winning streak end, but was left in limbo. Instead of winning the CAA tourney and the automatic NCAA bid that comes with it, the Cougars were left waiting in the worst way.

Now Charleston waits on pins and needles for Sunday’s NCAA tournament selection show that will be shown at 9 p.m. Eastern on ESPNU.

As its own website headline read, the Cougars are “firmly on the bubble in the final NCAA RPI rankings.” Charleston sits at No. 50 in the RPI rankings. An at-large bid would be the program’s second-ever and first-ever for a Colonial team. Charleston has five wins against top-100 RPI teams, including one current No. 18 Baylor.

If Charleston’s name doesn’t come up Sunday night, the Cougars will take a trip to the Triple Crown Sports National Volleyball Invitational Tournament instead.

“James Madison played great against us and had good momentum,” said 11th-year Charleston coach Jason Kepner, who has directed the program to four NCAA tournament appearances and won regular-season or conference-tournament titles in his first eight seasons as head coach.

“It’s one loss that unfortunately came at the worst time to have a loss and play a poor match. But one loss doesn’t diminish the success they’ve had and hopefully we’ll be fortunate enough to be rewarded by the committee and get an at-large bid, not because the way it ended, but because of the season we’ve had.”

Charleston setter Allison Beckman

Setter Allison Beckman said all the Cougars can do now is sit back and wait.

“It’s a little nerve-wrecking,” said the junior from Apex, N.C. “It’s not in our hands anymore. We have to sit back and wait.”

Senior middle blocker Krissy Mummey, the Colonial player of the year, said waiting will be tough particularly from a preparation standpoint.

“We’re really anxious and the suspense is never fun,” said the product of Hudson, Ohio. “You always look forward to who you play next. And not knowing who we play next is tough to prepare for. We have to be focused on ourselves and not the next opponent.

“We know we could potentially get an NCAA bid or we will be happy competing in the NIT. We’re lucky to have the chance to still compete. In some past years the seniors’ last match was the conference-championship match. It’s cool that we’ll get to keep playing somewhere.”

Kepner said this year’s squad has made advancements forward mainly because of the ages on their driver’s licenses.

“We made the transition this year,” he said. “Last year we had a lot of sophomores and freshmen and this year we had more seniors and juniors. We have done a really good job of being able to move on from bad points. Others years, we may have dwelled a little longer on bad stretches. This year we’ve been able to get past issues and focus on the next time. We’ve done a good job moving past things and not giving up large runs of points.”

And as Kepner noted, having a player such as Mummey doesn’t hurt either.

Mummey won the Colonial top player accolade after leading the conference with a .425 hitting percentage to with 3.07 kills and 0.92 blocks per set. She entered the CAA tournament ranked 11th in the country in hitting percentage and earned a total of four CAA player of the week honors, three on the offensive end and one defensively.

Mummey and Beckman both earned all-CAA honors with Beckman also being named the CAA setter of the year. Beckman had plenty of options at her disposal with four players averaging more than 2.5 kills per set, headlined by Devon Rachel’s 3.68 per set (364 total kills). Mummey is next with 337 total kills, followed by junior right side and Evansville, Ind., native Kennedy Madison at 2.83 and 309 and sophomore outside hitter Lauren Freed (Troy, Ohio) at 2.78 and 272. Madison is an all-CAA second-team pick, while Rachel earned third-team honors.

Charleston also hit more than 100 points higher than its opponent this season and had five players averaged two or more digs per set with junior libero McKala Rhodes, a Charleston local, at 4.59 (519 total digs).

Charleston coach Jason Kepner hopes for a fifth NCAA trip

“For me it’s about balance,” said Kepner. “I’ve always been someone who has believed in being extremely balanced offensively. I think if you can have three or four people who all can have good nights then if one person is off, you still can be successful. We have players who have had good days and bad days and we still have been successful because we have a lot of balance.”

Kepner lauded Beckman for being able to use all the tools at her disposal in a most effective way.

“Ally did a good job of understanding that we can set to a variety of different people and set people who are hot and having good matches and giving them the ball when opportunities presented themselves,” he said. “I can’t say enough about her. We are hitting around .260 this season and you need good hitters and a good setter to do that. She did a great job leading that charge.”

Mummey said balance made things a tad tough for the team on the other side of the net.

“The great part about being balanced is it’s hard for other teams to play us,” she said. “We don’t have one big hitter or one big player to worry about. Anybody on the court can step up at any time and make a big play when we need them to.”

Beckman has been impressed with the team’s resiliency this season, particularly after losing a conference match in late September in Boston to Northeastern.

“I like our ability to fight back,” Beckman said. “In the past when we’ve lost it has reflected past that loss. This year we lost at Northeastern and we didn’t lose another conference match until the finals, which sucks, but at the same time it’s huge.”

Kepner and his Charleston squad are hoping the team’s next comeback occurs inside the NCAA committee selection room this weekend.

“It’s nice to be sitting on the bubble, but it’s also not fun sitting on the bubble,” said Kepner.

Sunday night the Cougars will find out whether their bubble burst or not.

“At this point there is nothing we can do about it,” said Kepner. “We’re looking at the RPI teams still playing and looking at schedules and who they have to play. I have my thought process for who I am cheering for. Hopefully we are in the discussion in the room.

“I think having a yop-25 win definitely helps us and hopefully gives us credibility during the thought process that we can go into the NCAA tournament and be competitive.”

 

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