UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - - Looking to advance in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007, the University of Delaware volleyball team will face American University in the first round on Friday, starting at 5 p.m. with the first and second rounds hosted by Penn State University.
The Blue Hens earned the Colonial Athletic Association automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament by coming back to defeat James Madison and Virginia Commonwealth in the CAA Tournament.
Scouting the University of Delaware Blue Hens (20-12):
Finding themselves down 2-0 and 17-13 in the third set, the number one seed and host Blue Hens found a way to battle back against fifth seeded JMU in the semifinals of the CAA Tournament.
Playing on its home court, Delaware also had to climb out of a 2-1 hole in the CAA Championship match against VCU the following night. The resilient Blue Hens did just that, winning their fourth CAA Tournament Championship in five years and placing them in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in program history.
Senior co-captain Kim Stewart was named the Tournament’s Most Outstanding Performer after leading UD its second consecutive championship on its home court. She put down a team-high 32 kills while also contributing 34 digs, four blocks, four assists and two service aces on the weekend.
Fellow senior co-captain, and CAA Setter of the Year Renee Tomko was named to the CAA All-Tournament Team after she ran the offense by dishing out 109 assists in 10 sets. She also had three pivotal kills during the weekend, and helped the defense with 28 kills and three blocks.
Junior outside hitter Alissa Alker was also named to the CAA All-Tournament Team after posting 30 kills, 26 digs, 10 blocks, three aces and a team-high 38.5 points in the two matches.
Katie Hank leads the Blue Hens by averaging 3.25 kills per game on the season, followed closely by Alker’s 3.10 per set average. Tomko passes out 10.69 helpers a fram while libero Cara Rosehill claims 4.19 digs a set. At the net, Karine Evans leads the team with 1.03 blocks a game followed by Chelsea Lawrence (0.99 per set).
NCAA Tournament History:
Delaware has been in to the NCAA Tournament in 2007, 2008 and 2010. During their three appearance, the Blue Hens have compiled a 1-3 record, picking up their lone win against Princeton in the first round of 2007 held at St. John’s.
The team dropped a straight set decision to No. 7 Oregon at American in 2008, and again fell 3-0 to Virginia Tech last season at Penn State.
Scouting the American University Eagles (23-10):
American, winners of the Patriot League regular season as well as the Patriot League Tournament, come into the NCAA Tournament on an 18-1 stretch, including a 10-0 mark since October 19.
The Eagles’ last loss came to the hands of Lehigh on October 15, a straight set decision that ended an eight game win streak.
Prior to the of the Patriot League schedule, American struggled to a 5-9 start, losing to similar opponents Oregon and Villanova, while defeating George Mason, 3-0.
Similar to Delaware, the Eagles earned the right to host the Patriot League Championship defeating Colgate in the Semifinals before taking down Army in the Championship. Both matches ended in four sets.
The Eagles are led by freshman sensation Sara Rishell who was named the Patriot League Player and Rookie of the Year. She leads the team with 3.15 kills and 1.03 blocks per set. Rishell has committed 120 errors on the season, leading the team with a .317 attack percentage.
Juliana Crum was also named to the All-Patriot League First Team while collecting 3.01 kills a frame. She also leads the defensive effort, leading the Eagles with 295 digs and 2.59 digs per set.
American uses a two-setter rotation, as Monika Smidova has 616 assists and Alexandra Hammer has dished out 606 helpers on the season.
This will be the 15th meeting between the two programs, dating back to 1976, but the two teams haven’t played since the 2000 season. Delaware holds an 8-6 all-time series lead, but American has won four of the last five meetings, including a 3-0 sweep in 2000. Delaware’s last win in the series was a five set decision at American in 1996.