GORHAM, Maine - The University of Southern Maine women's volleyball team will make its first-ever postseason tournament appearance tomorrow night when the Huskies travel Endicott College for a first-round match in the 2014 ECAC (Eastern College Athletic Conference) Division III New England Championship Tournament.
The Huskies, 18-13 during the regular season, are the fifth seed and face the fourth-seeded Gulls who were 16-16 overall in the regular season. The USM-Endicott match is one of three first-round matches in this year's ECAC New England region tournament.
"We're beyond excited," commented first-year head coach Diane Newell. "I'm am so proud of the players and what they've accomplished this season. Our plan this season was to aim high and make postseason play. We were not deterred at missing the Little East tournament. We accomplished our goal to make it into postseason play, and the players deserve this shot to show what they can do on the bigger stage."
With no seniors on the roster, the Huskies are led by co-captains Demi Ruder (Grand Junction, Colo.) and Megan Nilson (Granby, Conn.). Ruder, a junior libero, leads the team with 367 digs and 46 service aces while Nilson, a sophomore, setter, has 852 assists and 218 digs.
"We're really honored to be selected for the (ECAC) tournament," replied Ruder when asked about the team's reaction to being selected. "We worked really hard this season and all that hard work is paying off, and we're excited about the chance to continue the season."
Leading the Huskies' attack is freshman outside hitter Jessica Williamson (Goffstown, N.H.), the 2014 Little East Conference Rookie of the Year. Williamson has 484 kills and a .256 hitting percentage, and is ranked eighth nationally in Division III in kills per set (4.57). She is second to Ruder with 347 digs.
Complementing Williamson up front are junior hitter Renee Trottier (Biddeford, Maine) with 167 kills, freshman Monica Raymond (Sanbornton, N.H.) with 172 kills and junior Jessica Garrett (Las Vegas, Nev.) with 123 kills and a team-leading 47 service aces.
For the Gulls, junior setter Alleigh VandeMerkt (Riverside, Ill.) averages 9.14 assists per set and needs just four assists to reach 1,000 for the season. The Gulls have three players, sophomore outside hitter Tori McIntyre (San Diego, Calif.), sophomore middle blocker Hayley Knapp (Valencia, Calif.) and rookie outside hitter Elise Morgan (Holbrook, Mass.), who have 200 or more kills. Sophomore defensive specialist Erika Trudon (Coventry, Conn.) leads the team with 437 digs.
Western New England University (19-12) received the top seed and a first-round bye. The Golden Bears will host the semi-final and championship rounds on Saturday. Salve Regina University (20-10) is the second seed and hosts seventh seed MCLA (Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts) (15-13) in another first-round match. The final first-round match-up has third-seeded Worcester State University (23-9) entertaining sixth-seeded University of St. Joseph's (Conn.) (16-7).
2014 ECAC Division III New England Volleyball Championship
*First Round – Wednesday, November 12
No. 1 Western New England Receives a Bye
No. 7 MCLA (15-13) vs. No. 2 Salve Regina (20-10)
No. 3 Worcester State (23-9) at No. 6 St. Joseph (16-7)
No. 5 Southern Maine (18-13) at No. 4 Endicott (15-15)
*Semifinals – Saturday, November 15 at Western New England
No. 1 Western New England vs. winner of No. 4 Endicott/No. 5 Southern Maine winner,
No. 2 Salve Regina/No. 7 MCLA winner vs. No. 3 Worcester State/No. 6 St. Joseph’s winner
*Championship – Saturday, November 15 at Western New England
Two Semifinal Winners
*All times TBA