NEWARK, Del. -- Trailing 2-0 and 17-13 in the third set, the top seeded and host University of Delaware clawed back to stun fifth seeded James Madison, 3-2, in the Colonial Athletic Association Volleyball Tournament Semifinals on Saturday night at Viera Court at the Carpenter Sports Building.
Set scores for the match were 20-25, 23-25, 25-23, 25-21, and 15-11.
With the win, Delaware (19-12) advances to the CAA Tournament Championship match against No. 6 VCU on Sunday starting at 5 p.m.
VCU advanced to the championship match by upsetting No. 2 Northeastern, 3-2, prior to the Blue Hens’ match on Saturday.
Delaware's Kim Stewart (at right) led all attackers with 21 kills for the match. She added 14 digs for her seventh double-double of the season. She also had four assists, a service ace, and had a hand on a block assist to lead the Blue Hens back to the CAA Championship match for the second straight year and fourth time in five years.
“Kim Stewart was our MVP tonight, by far,” head coach Bonnie Kenny said of her senior captain. “She did everything. She served, played incredible defense and she hit spectacular. She led with her leadership in the locker room and her leadership on the floor. She was poised, she was confident and I could stay out of her way tonight.”
Katie Hank chipped in with 13 kills for the Blue Hens, while Alissa Alker and Karina Evans also topped double-digit kills with 12 each.
Renee Tomko (at left) paced the offense, passing out 55 assists on the night. Libero Cara Rosehill led the defense with a team-high 20 digs, while four other Blue Hens collected double figure digs as well.
Tomko picked up the double-double with 18 digs, while Alyssa Walton picked up a career best 15.
Stewart (14) and Alker (13) rounded out the quartet on defense.
“Karina Evans turned the match around for us with her hitting," said Kenny. "They didn’t respect her as a hitter and we gave it to her once and she annihilated that ball. That was a big time hit. Then Renee got comfortable with her and kept giving it to her. She opened it up so our outside hitters had a one-on-one block. She was the difference in game three, by far.”
The match turned in favor of the Blue Hens with one point. Trailing 17-16 in the third set, it looked as though JMU’s Natalie Abel got the Dukes a point with a kill. But a net violation was called, awarding the Blue Hens the point and swaying the momentum on Delaware’s side.
Stewart followed that point up with a kill to give the Hens an 18-17 lead, resulting in a three-point swing. James Madison was able to reclaim the lead however, and was three points from taking the match leading 22-21.
A kill by Alker and an attack error on the Dukes put Delaware ahead late in the set. The Blue Hens were unable to come up with many blocks on the night, losing the battle at the net, 10-6, but got them when it counted.
Tied at 23-23, another Stewart kill, and a timely block by Lawrence and Stewart kept Delaware alive, 25-23. Tied at 16-16 in the fourth set, the Hens scored four of the next five points, causing James Madison to use both its timeouts.
Delaware also recorded four of the last five points in the set, getting back-to-back kills from Stewart and Lawrence to tie the match, 25-25. Delaware trailed only once in the fifth set, 2-1, before rattling off six of seven points to command the decisive frame, 7-3.
JMU pulled it to within 9-8, but Stewart finished off the Dukes, and the monumental comeback, with back-to-back kills.
Holly Wall led the Dukes with 19 kills and added 16 digs for the double-double. Abel finished with 13 kills while Kelly Maguire was the only other Duke in double figures with 12.
Danielle Erb had a match-high 21 digs while libero Katie Daorai collected 20. It was the second consecutive season that James Madison fell in the semifinals of the CAA Tournament.
In the first semifinal Saturday afternoon, VCU stormed back from an 8-3 deficit in the fifth and deciding set to upset No. 2 Northeastern, 3-2. VCU battled back from a 2-1 hole to come back and win the fourth and fifth sets to advance to its first CAA Tournament championship match since 2009.
Courtney Hott led the Rams with 17 kills, finishing with a .464 attack percentage. Kristen Boyd (15) and Anett Farkas (12) also collected double-digit kills for the upstart Rams. Cecilia Aragao passed out 50 helpers on the afternoon while Amanda Friday tied Aragao with a team-high 12 digs.
The Blue Hens will look to defend their CAA Championship Sunday and receive the CAA’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. The Hens will be going for their fourth CAA Championship in the last five seasons. The match is slated to begin at 5 p.m.