Volleyball heads to ECAC finals with sweep of Salve Regina

WALTHAM, Mass. – In the first semifinal of today's Eastern College Athletic Conference New England Division III Volleyball tournament, the top-seeded Brandeis University volleyball team defeated visiting Salve Regina University, the fifth seed, by a 3-0 score. Set scores were 25-17, 25-23, 25-20.

The Judges had a terrific balanced attack, with four players registering at least five kills, and three of those hitting for a .364 percentage or better. Junior setter Yael Einhorn (Cherry Hill, N.J./Cherry Hill East) orchestrated the offense with 32 assists while also registering five kills with one error in her seven attacks for a .571 percentage. Einhorn led the team to a .269 hitting percentage overall (39 K-11 E- 104 TA).

Sophomore outside hitter Liz Hood (Albuquerque, N.M.) led the squad with 10 kills, finishing with a .267 hitting percentage (10 K-2 E-30 TA). Senior middle blocker Becca Fischer (San Antonio, Texas/Clark) added nine kills and a .389 percentage, while junior OH Si-Si Hensley (Fullerton, Calif./Troy) had eight kills and .364 percentage.

Defensively, Hensley added 11 digs, one behind sophomore libero Elsie Bernaiche's (Plantsville, Conn./Southington) 12 for team-high honors. The Judges had four team blocks, with sophomore Carly Gutner-Davis (Del Mar, Calif./CanyonC Crest Acad.) picking up three block assists and Hensley and senior opposite Lauren Berens (Boulder, Colo./Fairview) with two each.

Salve Regina had a couple of match-high performances, as sophomore outside hitter Jennifer Duggan (Merrimack, N.H./Merrimack) led all players with 12 kills and senior libero Megan Clancy (Chelmsford, Mass./Chelmsford) had 17 digs.  The Seahawks had nearly as many kills as the Judges (39-38), but 20 errors to just 11 for the hosts made a difference.

All three sets were tightly contested. In the first, the largest lead in the early going was three by Brandeis at 13-10, but SRU answered with four in a row to take a 14-13 lead. The Judges were ahead, 18-17, when an SRU service error made it a two-point difference. At that point, Hensley stepped back to serve and rattled off the final six points of the set, with a Fischer kill wrapping it up, 25-17. The Judges had their most efficient set of the match, with 14 kills and just one error in 27 attempts for a .481 percentage.

The second set saw another see-saw affair, with runs lasting no more than three points – except for one – and most of those strings answered by the opposition. The crucial stretch came late in the set. With Salve Regina leading, 19-17, Brandeis coach Michelle Kim called a timeout. After the break, Gutner-Davis came up with a kill to return possession to the Judges. She then delivered a service ace to tie the match, and spark a 5-0 run, capped by a Berens kill that made it 22-19. Salve snapped the string with an Erin McGloin (West Islip, N.Y./West Islip), but the teams traded points the rest of the way for a 25-23 Brandeis victory.

In the third set, the Seahawks jumped out early to a 5-1 lead, and were still ahead at 12-10. Brandeis then embarked on a 6-1 streak of their own, with an Einhorn tip kill and Hood service ace supplementing four errors by the visitors to make it a 16-13 lead. The Judges would allow Salve back into the match at 18-17, but two more errors gave momentum back to the hosts, who closed it out at 25-20 on Hood's tenth kill of the match.

Brandeis now advances to the title match of the ECAC tournament for the first time since 2007. The Judges are in search of their third ECAC title, to go with crowns in 2006 and 2007. They will face the winner of the second semifinal between second-seeded Western New England University and Keene State College, the third seed.

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