Captains fall to Marymount in Regional Finals
The weekend of Nov. 15 was a special one because for the first time since 2014, the Freeman Center was the host site for one of the NCAA Volleyball tournament Regional Championships. Christopher Newport would invite seven other teams from a variety of states: Virginia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and even Texas.
Seven matches were scheduled to decide one winner who would advance to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the host city of the National Championship match.
Some familiar faces for the Captains showed up ready to fight for the chance to etch their name in history. The Juniata College Eagles, Virginia Wesleyan University Marlins, Marymount University Saints and Stevenson University Mustangs all made the return to Newport News.
Other programs like the Randolph-Macon College Yellow Jackets, Hunter College Hawks and Trinity (Tx.) Tigers took that trip for the first time in at least five years when Randolph-Macon last came to Christopher Newport University. All eight teams were paired off and played on Friday with only four spots available for the next round of the tournament.
Virginia Wesleyan was making their NCAA tournament debut against a strong Juniata program who had been to the big dance for the last 39 consecutive seasons. Hunter, a program who received an automatic bid after winning their conference for the sixth year in a row, was up against #7 nationally ranked Trinity University out of Texas.
With a preview of the following match occurring on Sept. 6, Randolph-Macon was in the third match of the day against Marymount University.
Randolph-Macon won that match 3 – 1, but now with their seasons on the line, both teams would be giving it everything they had.
The main event of the evening was the Captains hosting Stevenson, who were riding high on an undefeated streak of six matches at the time.
The tightly contested matchups that the NCAA tournament can provide were on full display as not one of the Friday showcases resulted in a clean sweep and saw Juniata drag Virginia Wesleyan out to a five set thriller before eventually overcoming the Marlins.
Hunter was able to take a set from Trinity (Tx.) before eventually falling in four. Marymount forged a new future for themselves as they surpassed Randolph-Macon and secured their first ever NCAA tournament victory.
With over 600 fans in attendance cheering on the home side, the Captains rebounded after dropping the first set to win the next three and move on to the regional semifinal the next day. It seemed almost like Groundhog Day as Juniata would be facing Trinity (Tx.), a matchup that took place already back on Sept. 13 where Trinity (Tx.) came out on top. In addition, Christopher Newport would face off against Marymount for the third time this season, with the Captains securing both victories.
The next day, Trinity (Tx.) fought through an extremely close first set (27-25) and then began to settle in as they won by four points in the second frame and completed the sweep with a statement win by 11 points. In the second match, the Captains started out strong and took the first set off Marymount after jumping out to an early six point lead. Looking to make more history on the season, the Saints fought back and squeaked out a second set victory despite being unable to finish four set points thanks to a Christopher Newport service error.
With both sides having one set under their belts, the match was now best two out of three. The Captains closed out the third set on a 6-2 run to put the Saints’ season on the line. Both teams battled neck and neck throughout the fourth set before it was tied up at 22 points each.
Two emphatic blocks denied the Captains attack after a pair of points to force a deciding fifth set. With months on years of hard work leading up to this moment, it would be a race to see which side would grab 15 points first.
The Saints offense came out swinging and powered four kills in a row to the hardwood before an ace slipped through the home side squad. From there, Christopher Newport would never get closer than three points as Marymount took the fifth set and achieved their first victory against the Christopher Newport volleyball program since 1999.
Sunday afternoon the two remaining teams faced each other on opposite sides of the net, both knowing that only one would be able to make the trip to Cedar Rapids with a spot in the NCAA quarterfinals.
An unfortunate broken ankle the previous night after the contest with the Captains claimed Marymount’s setter, giving the team about 12 hours to mentally prepare with a new style of offense that had not been tested in a match this season. That was all that Trinity (Tx.) would need as the Tigers would outperform Marymount in the first set while the opposition was getting a feel for their new play style.
The second set was more of the same as Trinity (Tx.) leaped out to an eight point lead just 12 points in. They would also score the final seven points and have more than enough momentum needed as they propelled themselves into the third set with their eyes set on the upcoming plane ride to Iowa. With victory in their sights, the Tigers again would claim an early advantage of seven points. Then the Saints began to connect and link up to answer the points that Trinity (Tx.) would register.
Unfortunately, it was too little too late as Marymount closed a historic season in the regional championship match. Trinity (Tx.) is moving on to play #3 nationally ranked Calvin College on Nov. 21 for a place in the semifinals.
~Austin Urch, Staff Writer~