Courtesy of Scranton Athletic Communications
SCRANTON, Pa. - Junior Kristin Kirwan had a double-double to lead the way (25 kills, 18 digs), as the second-seeded University of Scranton volleyball team edged third-seeded Susquehanna in five sets on Wednesday night in the semifinals of the 2017 Landmark Conference Playoffs (25-17, 22-25, 29-27, 21-25, 15-12) at the John Long Center.
With the victory, the Royals improved to 35-4 in their season for the ages in 2017, as Scranton advances to their first Landmark Conference championship match ever. There, the Royals will take on top-seeded Juniata on the road on Saturday. Scranton also advances to their first conference championship match of any kind since 2006 (in the MAC Freedom), while the win over Susquehanna was their first over the Riverhawks since 2008.
Susquehanna ends the year with a 21-12 mark, as they had a 14-match winning streak over Scranton snapped in the defeat.
To open play, the Royals came out on fire, opening an 18-13 lead in the middle of the first set that Susquehanna could not come back from. With that, the Royals grabbed a 1-0 lead on the Riverhawks with an eight-point first set win.
But, Susquehanna came back in the second set with a three-point win, then took a 24-21 lead very late in the third set, looking poised to go up 2-1. But, Scranton roared back, scoring three points in a row to tie the set back up at 24-24 and send it to a tiebreak.
The tiebreaker in the third set see-sawed back and forth, but with things tied up at 27-all, Scranton finally completed the comeback with back-to-back kills by sophomore Victoria Capogna and Kirwan, as the Royals were able to score 8 of the last 11 points of the set to take a shocking 29-27 decision to go up 2-1 in the match.
Susquehanna, however, came back with a vengeance in the fourth game, as they opened a 21-11 lead late on the Royals. But, Scranton did not go away without a fight in the game, eventually slicing the Riverhawk lead all the way down to 23-20. But, Susquehanna scored two of the final three points of the set to take a 25-21 decision that sent the match to a fifth game.
In that fifth set, both teams opened play strong, as the game was tied up at 6-6 early. But, Scranton took control of action here, scoring three straight points to go up 9-6. That three-to-four point lead held for the Royals, as they eventually opened up a 13-9 lead and looked poised to end it.
But, Susquehanna would not go away, as they scored three straight points to cut the Royals lead down to 13-12 late. However, the Royals picked themselves up and ended the match.
First, sophomore Kate Calabro came up with a huge kill that made it a 14-12 match. That was followed by a perfectly placed serve by freshman Regina Schetroma that nicked the top of the net and was unable to be received by the Susquehanna defense, giving Scranton the thrilling five-set win with a game-clinching ace.
Overall, Kirwan was brilliant in the victory, leading the way with her 25 kill, 18 dig evening. The double-double was her 15th of the 2017 season, while it was also her third double-double in the last four matches for Scranton.
Kirwan led a balanced attack for Scranton in the victory. Capogna finished with 14 kills and five block assists, while senior Catherine Manning chipped in with 11 kills. Calabro, who came in late in the contest, finished with seven kills after playing some critical moments late for Scranton.
Elsewhere, freshman setter Kindler Norman was dazzling yet again in a win, as she finished with a staggering 61 assists, a season-best. The 61 assist effort was the fifth most for a Royals in a match since 2002 and the most in a contest for Scranton since the 2007 season.
Norman also paced the Royals defense with 19 digs, while senior Morgan Rentzheimer finished with 18 digs. Rounding out the top performers for Scranton were Schetroma with 17 digs, and senior Erica Byrne, who had 11 digs.