HARRISONBURG, Va. -- Win one more and host.
That is what is on the minds of the University of Delaware volleyball team after the Blue Hens battled back from a set down to defeat James Madison, 3-2, on Friday night in Sinclair Gymnasium to stay atop the Colonial Athletic Association standings with one match remaining.
Set scores for the match were 22-25, 25-17, 25-22, 21-25, and 15-12.
The Blue Hens (17-12, 10-3 CAA), who won their third straight match, are tied with Northeastern in the CAA standings but hold the head-to-head tie-breaker with the Huskies for the number one seed and the right to host the CAA Tournament starting on November 18. Towson and James Madison (19-9, 8-5 CAA) were also in the running to host heading into this final weekend of regular season action.
Northeastern and Towson both won their respective matches Friday to keep pace at the top of the standings. A win by Delaware on Saturday against George Mason will give the Blue Hens at least a share of its third straight CAA regular season championship, and the right to host its second consecutive CAA Tournament.
Delaware was led by Alissa Alker (above right) who had a career night, collecting her first career 20-20 match. She finished with a match-high 24 kills and added 21 digs. She took 57 swings on the night, committing only three errors for a team high .368 hitting percentage. The junior also had four block assists and a solo block against the Dukes.
Katie Hank was the only other Blue Hen with double digit kills, collecting 12 on 42 attempts and a .214 attack percentage. Senior setter Renee Tomko passed out a match-high 53 assists, finishing with her team leading 15th double-double, picking up 19 digs defensively.
Reigning CAA Player of the Week Chelsea Lawrence ended her two-match errorless streak but helped in a whole different way, denying eight blocks for the match. She stopped one attempt by herself and had a hand in eight other block assists.
The fifth set was back-and-forth as neither team was able to gain more than two points in a row through the first 21 points. But Alker took the reigns with the Blue Hens trailing 11-10, tying the set with a kill from Tomko. After a ball handling error, Alker served up an ace, sandwiched around both JMU’s timeouts, for the set.
Now leading 13-11, James Madison’s Natalie Abel cut the lead to one, but back-to-back kills by Kim Stewart an Alker finished off the Dukes, and gave the Blue Hens the five-set victory.
The Dukes had five players with double-digit kills led by Kelly Maguire’s 18. Able and Danielle Erb tallied 12 kills each while Holly Wall and Kelly Turner finished with 11 and 10, respectively. Kristi Richardson had a team-high 30 assists and Megan Wiechmann passed out 26 helpers.
Defensively, the Dukes also had three players with 20 or more digs and four above single digits. Libero Katie Daorai led JMU with 22 with Hall (21), Abel (20), and Erb (17) each finishing with double-doubles.
The Blue Hens are now 3-1 in five-set matches this season and will travel to George Mason on Saturday for its regular season finale. The match is slated to start at 5 p.m.
Delaware def. James Madison, 3-2 (22-25, 25-17, 25-22, 21-25, 15-12)
Delaware (kills-assists-digs): Hank (12-1-7); Tomko (2-53-19); Stewart (8-0-17); Alker (24-1-21); Lawrence (8-0-3); Evans (4-1-0-); Rosehill (0-0-19); Reigel (0-0-0); Walton (0-0-10).
James Madison: Abel (12-3-20); Erb (12-1-17); Briones (1-0-0); Weichmann (3-26-5); Maguire (18-0-1); Wall (11-3-21); Daorai (0-3-22); Stewart (0-0-0); Turner (10-1-7); Richardson (7-30-2).
Total Team Blocks: Delaware 12.5, James Madison 5