College Volleyball: Raiders seek higher finish at national tournament
For sophomores like Ashton Kapphahn and Ashley Abear, who are both 2015 All-MCAC first-team players, it will be their second trip to the big stage when the Central Lakes College Raiders compete in the NJCAA Division III event Friday through Satur...
For sophomores like Ashton Kapphahn and Ashley Abear, who are both 2015 All-MCAC first-team players, it will be their second trip to the big stage when the Central Lakes College Raiders compete in the NJCAA Division III event Friday through Saturday at Rochester.
Last year's trip was bittersweet for the Raiders who are seeded third and will play No. 6 seed Monroe (N.Y.) College at 12:30 p.m. Friday. The bitter was CLC suffered a first-round loss to Lorain (Ohio) County Community College in five sets and Abear went out with a knee injury in the deciding set. The sweet was two dominant wins following the first game and a fifth-place finish for the Raiders.
"While last year's loss to Lorain and our earlier loss to Madison (in September) may provide some motivation, they are not the key to advancing," said CLC head coach Jane Peterson. "How we prepare and how we show up to play is what's important now.
CLC has had an extra week to prepare as region champions throughout Division III needed to be decided with Rochester earning the final spot.
One of the things the Raiders have been working on is a quick start.
"We are focusing on winning our first match and being ready to play right away," said Peterson. "Our focus has been on getting better between regions and nationals. That's what practice is for - improving. I think a lot of successful teams are not so concerned with winning or the number of wins until they are in the heat of competition.
"We have, from the beginning, tried to judge ourselves on how we are learning and improving individually and as a team."
Improving could be a tall order for the Raiders who enter the tournament on an 11-match winning streak. They also had the state's top two players with attack percentage in Rachel Mathias and Ashton Kapphahn. Kapphahn also led the MCAC in set assists per game (8.65).
The Raiders also improved their defense and passing as the season went along, and they also were an effective serving team.
By earning the No. 3 seed, the Raiders avoided Madison, last year's national champion and one of only two teams to defeat CLC this year. Madison earned the No. 1 seed and wouldn't face the Raiders unless both teams make it to Saturday's championship match.
With a victory in the quarterfinals, the Raiders will face the winner of No. 2 Brookhaven/No. 7 Northampton in the semifinals. The first two rounds will take place Friday afternoon with the championship round Saturday.
With a regular season of excellence in their rear view mirror, the Raiders are ready to take the final step.
"I feel like this team has done what they've been asked to do. We have had great sophomore leadership. We have learned to put the team before self. We have had focused practices. We have been a team to be proud of," said Peterson.
"We have battled hard and I think we believe in each other. No matter what happens in our next three matches, this will have been a successful season. My hope for this team is that we can enjoy the experience and that we can play confidently, because it's more fun that way. I'm proud to be the coach of this team."