SoCon stunner: The Citadel wins; NCAA bids also go to Fighting Camels, WKU, eight others

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UIC celebrates winning the Horizon League tournament title/Steve Woltmann photo

If it’s November, it’s Western Kentucky time. 

You might have expected that the 18th-ranked Hilltoppers would win the Conference USA Tournament and the NCAA bid that goes with it.

But The Citadel?

The Citadel, the No. 7 seed in the SoCon? Indeed, because The Citadel, with an RPI of 246, is headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time.

And how about typing this for the first time: The Fighting Camels are going to the NCAA Tournament. Campbell won the Big South.

In all Sunday, there were 11 bids claimed to the 64-team NCAA field, including WKU, which won C-USA for the third year in a row and the seventh time in eight seasons.

ATLANTIC 10 — Dayton (25-5) beat Fordham 27-25, 25-13, 25-18 for its 15th A10 title. The Flyers, who won their fourth conference tourney title in a row, also won their 19th match in a row. Jamie Peterson led with 15 kills, an assist, five blocks, and seven digs. Amelia Moore had 10 kills with one error in 20 attacks and an assist, an ace, four blocks, and three digs. Livie Sandt had two kills, 35 assists, an ace, a block, and 13 digs.

Fordham (10-20) hit .092.

BIG SOUTH — The Fighting Camels!

Campbell (21-9) grinded to a 25-19, 22-25, 22-25, 25-22, 15-12 victory over High Point (24-7) in a battle between teams that tied for the conference title and split two matches this season.

Sarah Colla led with 13 kills, two assists, three blocks, and eight digs. Chloe Cook had 12 kills, an ace, a block, and six digs. Lailah Green had 11 kills, an assist, three aces, two blocks, and 12 digs. Hailey Wilson had eight kills with one error in 13 attacks and seven blocks, three solo. Claranne Fechter had 18 digs, five assists, and an ace.

High Point’s Sydney Palazzo had 19 kills, two aces, 19 digs, and three blocks, one solo. Dylan Maberry had 16 kills, two blocks and five assists, and Gabrielle Idlebird had 13 kills, three digs, and three blocks, one solo. 

CONFERENCE USA — WKU (27-1) won for the 20th time in a row with its 16-25, 25-14, 25-22, 25-20 victory over Rice (19-6).

Rice, with an NCAA RPI of 25, is all but assured of an at-large NCAA bid.

WKU hit .317. Lauren Matthews led with 21 kills as she hit .421 and had an assist, three digs, and four blocks, three solo. Kayland Jackson had 13 kills, hit .458, and had two blocks and two digs. Nadia Dieudonne had three kills, 55 assists, an ace, and seven digs.

Nicole Lennon led Rice, which hit .317, with 17 kills, an assist, a block, and 15 digs. Shaylee Shore had eight kills, hit .429, and had six blocks, two solo. Carly Graham had two kills in three errorless tries, 48 assists, two blocks, and nine digs.

HORIZON — UIC (20-11) won the hard way, ultimately defeating Northern Kentucky 16-25, 25-19, 25-22, 24-26, 18-16. But the Flames watched the Norse (20-8) storm back after being down 14-8 in the fifth to tie at 14-14. NKU had a 16-15 lead and thought it had the match, but a throw was called on an attack by Sequoia Hunt. Back-to-back attack errors ended it for UIC.

UIC had five players with 10 or more kills, including 14 apiece by Paola Santiago and Martina Delucchi. Santiago added two aces, three blocks, and 10 digs. Delucchi had an assist, three blocks, and nine digs. Becca Oldendorf had 13 kills and six blocks. Jaclyn Oblena had 25 digs and three assists. Sohila Wafeek had a kill, 49 assists, an ace, two blocks, and nine digs. 

NKU’s Anna Brinkmann had 18 kills, two assists, an ace, two blocks, and 13 digs. Reilly Briggs had 14 kills and eight blocks.

MAAC — Fairfield (24-8) hit .404 and overpowered Rider (19-12) 25-11, 25-18, 25-21 for its fifth title in seven years and 12th overall. Laura Seeger had 12 kills, hit .500 and had three blocks and two digs. KJ Johnson had nine kills, hit .333, and had an assist, four blocks, and nine digs. Ella Gardner had seven kills in 12 errorless swings and eight blocks, one solo. 

Fairfield slowed Rider’s Morgan Romano, who had 26 kills in each of her last four matches. Sunday, she had 13 kills but hit .091. She also had an ace, a block, and a dig. Tori Schrader had nine kills with one error in 19 attacks.

MAC — The league tournament began Sunday with two quarterfinals — fourth-seeded Western Michigan swept No. 5 Toledo, and third-seeded Ohio swept No. 6 Northern Illinois.

Monday’s semifinals pit No. 1 Ball State against WMU and No. 2 Bowling Green against Ohio. 

WMU’s Meredith Phillips and Julia Marr had 15 kills each. Ohio’s Caitlin O’Farrell had 15 kills, hit .522, and had an ace, seven blocks, and four digs. 

The championship match is Wednesday. Click here for the MAC Championship website.

MEAC — Howard (17-12) started slow this season but finished strong, capping the tournament with a 25-20, 25-21, 25-20, 25-20 victory over Delaware State (26-4). Howard, which stood 3-10 after losing the MEAC opener to Delaware State in four on September 24, is 14-2 since, including a sweep of Delaware State on October 26.

Four Bison has eight or more kills, 10 each by sisters Bria Woodward and Cimone Woodward. Bria had two aces, a block, and 11 digs. Cimone hit .444 and had eight digs and six blocks, three solo. Kailyn Williams had nine kills. Setters Milexa Cardona and Kayla Diaz combined for 40 assists, three aces, three blocks, and 12 digs.

Delaware State, which hit .075, got 10 kills apiece from Alondra Maldonado and Valeria Otero and nine from Sydney Lewis. Jasmal Cruz had 26 digs, two assists, and an ace.

PATRIOT — Colgate (18-9) beat American (19-14) for its first PL title since 2012. Libby Overmyer had 16 kills, and Allie Lowe 15 in the 25-21, 19-25, 25-19, 25-20 victory. 

Julia Kurowski had two kills, 42 assists, an ace, two blocks, and 12 digs.

American’s Katie Putney had 13 kills and four blocks, and Zeynep Uzen had 12 kills, a block, and 10 digs. 

SOCON — The Citadel (14-11) swept fourth-seeded Wofford (17-14)  25-23, 25-18, 25-22 as Sharlissa De Jesus had 18 kills, hit .429 and added an assist, an ace, a block, and 12 digs. Ali Ruffin had 11 kills, an assist, two aces, a block and seven digs. Belle Hogan had three kills in five errorless tries, 42 assists, a block, and two digs.

In this tournament, The Citadel upset second-seeded UNCG then knocked off No. 3 Samford in the semifinals. 

Here’s some Citadel history: From 1999 through 2017, the program won a total of 16 SoCon matches and had nine seasons without a conference win. Coach Dave Zelenock took over in 2018 and the team finished 12-19 overall and 4-12, the most league wins in its history. In 2019, the records were 11-20 and 4-12, and last spring 9-12 and 7-9. The Bulldogs were 8-9 in the SoCon this season.

The teams split their matches this season. Wofford was a surprise finalist, too, but had a different road after beating No. 5 Western Carolina and No. 9 Furman. Against The Citadel, Sarah MacLean had 12 kills and hit .417 with two blocks, and Kennedy Smith had 11 kills, hit .429, and had an ace, a block, and seven digs.

SWAC — Florida A&M (25-6), which moved over from the MEAC just this year, had to go five to knock off top-seeded Jackson State (17-13) as Dominique Washington had 28 kills in a 25-20, 26-28, 23-25, 25-23, 15-13 victory.

Washington had two assists, an ace, a block, and 15 digs. Emerald Jacobs had 15 kills, an ace, three blocks, and eight digs. Jessica Long had 29 digs, four assists, and an ace, and Irem Uca had two kills, 54 assists, an ace, four blocks, and 16 digs.

JSU had four players with 11 or more kills, 15 by Olivia Flanagan, who had three blocks and seven digs. Jylen Whitten had 14 kills, an assist, an ace, three blocks, and 15 digs.

SOUTHLAND — Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (19-9) beat McNeese (18-11) 25-23, 25-10, 24-26, 25-21 to repeat as champion. It was the fourth conference title for the program,

The Islanders, winning their seventh in a row, were led by Kyndal Payne, who had 16 kills, hit .324, and had an assist, four aces, six digs, and four blocks, two solo. Julia Carter had 12 kills, and Montez Uigaese 10. Faith Panhans had three kills, 39 assists, three aces, and six digs.

McNeese’s Anyse Smith had 15 kills, an assist, and two blocks. Lizzy Tow had 18 digs and seven assists.

SUN BELT — South Alabama (25-6) is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time after sweeping three-time defending-champion Texas State (20-12) 25-19, 25-23, 25-13.

Hannah Maddux had 10 kills and nine blocks, two solo, for South Alabama, which won its 13th match in a row. Maddie Soboleski had 10 kills, three blocks — one solo — and 10 digs. Rachey Hickey had 17 digs, three assists, and four aces.

Texas State, which hit .103, got 10 kills from Jada Gardner and nine from Tyeranee Scott. The Bobcats had won 14 in a row.

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