NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – College of Charleston volleyball will be hosting its first CAA event this weekend as the Cougars prepare to fight for the 2013 CAA Tournament Championship and NCAA automatic bid.
Charleston finished the regular season with a 23-5 overall record, including 13-1 in conference. That performance handily gave the Cougars the regular season title with a three-match margin over second-place Northeastern.
The conference championship was the 13th consecutive league title for College of Charleston who began winning SoCon regular season or tournament championships back in 2001. That streak currently ranks second in the country, and will be the longest if Hawaii fails to win the Big West conference championship.
The six-team volleyball tournament will open with quarterfinal action on Friday, November 22 as #5 Hofstra (16-14, 6-8 in CAA) faces #4 James Madison (13-14, 8-6 in CAA) at 4:00 p.m., followed by #6 William & Mary (11-20, 6-8 in CAA) against #3 UNCW (19-9, 8-6 in CAA) at 7:00 p.m.
In Saturday’s semifinals, top-seeded CofC (23-5, 13-1 in CAA) takes on the Hofstra/James Madison winner at 1:00 p.m. Northeastern (18-10, 10-4 in CAA) meets the William & Mary/UNCW winner at 4:00 p.m.
The CAA title match will be played at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 24, with the winner earning the league’s automatic bid to the 2013 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship Tournament.
Tickets for the event will be sold on-site at the North Charleston Convention Center. $10 for adults and individuals and $5 for youth under 17. Tickets are valid for both sessions on Friday and Saturday. An All-Tournament pass can be purchased for $20 for adults and $10 for youth. Any student with valid ID from a CAA institution will be admitted free of charge.
Busses for CofC students will be leaving the Stern Center at 12:15 on each day that Charleston is playing. They will take one trip to the Convention Center and can hold 45 students, so come early to get a spot.
Free streaming video will be available on CAASports.com, while live stats can be viewed on CofCSports.com. Fans can also follow on social media through the @CAASports and @CofCVolleyball twitter account and #CAAChamps.
College of Charleston will obviously be making its first appearance in the CAA Tournament this season. The Cougars had won seven SoCon Tournaments in the program’s 15 years in that conference. Hofstra won the 2012 Tournament after upsetting host Towson, who went undefeated in the regular season. The CAA has shown parity in its conference leaders with seven different schools winning Tournament titles since 2000.
Scouting the Opposition
CofC will play the winner of Hofstra and James Madison in Saturday afternoon’s semifinal match. CofC defeated both schools in the regular season, outlasting Hofstra 3-2 and then sweeping the Pride, while beating JMU in four sets in each meeting. Charleston is now 2-0 against Hofstra all-time, and 3-0 against James Madison.
The Pride are led by junior outside hitter Kelsie Wills. Wills leads the conference in kills with 4.29 per set. She also averages 2.41 digs per set. Although HU averages 13.05 kills per set, the team only hits .174 as a unit.
James Madison has been powered by the dual threat of Janey Goodman and Lizzy Briones. Goodman has 323 kills, while Briones has 303 with 151 blocks (1.40/set). Briones also hits .292. The Dukes hit .195 as a team and averaged 11.4 assists per set.
Dorton, McKown, Kepner Earn Top Honors
CofC also dominated the All-CAA honors, picking up a league-best five players on the three teams. Dorton and junior Sloane White were named All-CAA First Team, redshirt-junior Cara Howley made All-CAA Second Team and Kerstin Koehler and Melissa Morello were picked for the All-CAA Third Team. Morello also earned a spot on the All-Academic team.
College of Charleston won the CAA Regular Season title with a 23-5 record, 13-1 in conference, boasting a perfect 7-0 record in conference road matches. The championship was the first in the new conference for any College of Charleston sport, and represented the 13th-consecutive regular season or tournament championship for the volleyball team, dating back to 2001.
Holding Strong In The RPI
College of Charleston enters the CAA tournament with a league-best RPI of 72. Last season, CofC entered the conference tournament with an RPI of 70 and ended the season at 45. That was the highest finish under head coach Jason Kepner and second-highest in program history after 2005’s rank of 26.
CofC’s regular season winning percentage of .821 is the second-highest under Kepner. CofC tied the program’s best start by going 8-0 to start the season, tying the 2005 start.
Lucky Number 13
With College of Charleston’s regular season CAA title, the Cougars extended their conference title streak to 13, winning either the regular season or tournament title of the SoCon and CAA dating back to 2001. That streak ranks second in the country behind Hawaii, who is currently in third place in the Big West.
During those 13 years, CofC has posted a record of 347-88 for a winning percentage of .797, each of which ranks eighth in the country over that span.
One or the Other? Why not Both?
College of Charleston hopes to overcome a recent dubious trend with a pair of victories in the CAA tournament. Dating back to 2008, College of Charleston has only won the conference regular season or the tournament title, not both in the same season. The last time that Charleston won the regular season and then held on in the tournament was 2007, Kepner’s first season at the helm.
Counting on Dorton
College of Charleston’s stud outside hitter, Dorton won the CAA Player of the Year award in 2013 and looks to do a little more damage in her final matches as a collegian.
Dorton has a history of outstanding success. With her CAA Regular Season championship, she has won conference titles in three different leagues (Big 10, SoCon, CAA), the only active D1 volleyball player to do so. She is a two-time AVCA All-America Honorable Mention recipient and two-time national champion when she was at Penn State in 2009 and 2010.
Last season, Dorton led CofC to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a career-high 27 kills in Charleston’s second NCAA win and first victory over a ranked team in No. 23 Miami. Some of her top performances have come in CofC’s biggest matches, including 20 kills in a win vs. Georgetown last year, 18 kills in last year’s SoCon title match, 18 kills in a win over Indiana this season and 26 kills in a win at Towson that clinched the CAA title.
She currently ranks third all-time in CofC history with 3.94 kills per set and is fourth all-time in career points/set (4.34).
Terminating Towards 1,000
Junior Sloane White looks to join Darcy Dorton in the 1,000-kill club this weekend as she currently sits at 988 career kills. Although White’s 2.55 kills per set this season is lower than her career average, she is still hitting an impressive .310.
White has been CofC’s go-to attacker at the end of sets and matches. Last year, she terminated the game-winning kills in key victories over Samford and Furman in the regular season and against Furman and Miami in five-set thrillers in the SoCon Championship and NCAA Tournament first round.
This year, she has made the winning final point in 14 sets and six final match points, including the game-winner against Indiana.
Numbers Can Be Deceiving
College of Charleston’s offense received plenty of accolade this season for leading the league in kills, hitting percentage and digs. However, the back-line defense played quite well too despite some deceiving numbers.
The Cougars ranked sixth in the conference with 14.73 digs per set this season. Yet, CofC had more digs than their CAA opponents in 12 of 14 conference matches. In fact, the Cougars outdug opponents by a total margin of 866-673 in conference play and 1517-1240 overall.
Libero Andi Zbojniewicz led the Cougars with 3.56 digs per set, converting 117 of her 352 digs into kills for a conversation percentage of .332.
Magic Away From Home?
Although College of Charleston is hosting the 2013 CAA Volleyball championships, the playing site will be new and unfamiliar to all teams in the North Charleston Convention Center.
The Cougars have been stout when playing away from TD Arena this season, suffering just two losses which came in California in the pacific time zone. CofC has won 20 straight conference road matches, dating back to 2011, and are 25-1 when counting the 2011 and 2012 conference tournaments at Samford and at Davidson.
Don’t Let It Happen Again
While every match is important and anything can happen, prognosticators might look ahead to a potential Northeastern-CofC matchup in the championship final this weekend. In the teams’ last meeting, the Cougars were stunned by an epic Husky comeback to win 3-2 on Charleston’s Senior Day.
The Cougars led the match 2-0, but suffered defeats in the third and fourth sets and then lost the fifth set, 15-8.
It marked the first time since 2006 that CofC lost a match after leading 2-0. And it was the first time since 2000 that the College fell on its Senior Day.