The number one seeded Wheeling Jesuit University Cardinals took the court Thursday evening against the eighth seeded Fayetteville State University Broncos. The Cardinals were conference champions in the Mountain East, and the Broncos in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association. The teams matched up last year in Wheeling, WV in the opening round of the regional tournament. Wheeling Jesuit proved to be too much, handling the Broncos in 3 sets.
The Cardinals of Wheeling Jesuit University, while claiming the number 1 seed in the Atlantic Region, also reeled in four players to the AVCA All-Region Team. Senior Jenna Pew, who was named Region player of the year, was joined by junior Mackenzie Ripley, freshman Haley Kindall, and freshman Kayce Krucki on the All-Region team. Head Coach Christy Benner was also named coach of the year in the region.
Wheeling Jesuit came out of the gate firing, taking a 14-3 lead early in the first. The Cardinals did not look back from this lead, continuing to pull away from the Broncos. The Cardinals were led by their powerful attacks on the offense end. The lead was stretched to 14, before Wheeling Jesuit went on to win the first set by a score of 25-11, and take a 1-0 lead in the match.
Early in set two, Fayetteville State hung tough with the Cardinals. Despite two serving errors, the Broncos clung to an early tied game, 5-5. However, the Cardinals responded by taking a 10-6 into a Fayetteville State timeout. From this point on, the Cardinals were in control of the set. Midway through the second, the score was Wheeling Jesuit University 15, Fayetteville State University 8. The Cardinal attacks proved to be too much for the Broncos, as Wheeling Jesuit went on to win the set by a score of 25-10, to take a 2-0 lead in the match.
Being down two sets to none to the Wheeling Jesuit University Volleyball team is a task no team wants to attempt, so the Broncos were up for a true challenge. The Cardinals came out looking to shut the door on their opponent, as expected. The Broncos of Fayetteville University did not go away easily in the third, however. The score was tied at 7 before the Cardinals took their lead, only to become tied again at 10. The Cardinals went on to expand their lead 17-12, while later claiming a 25-18 victory, and a 3-0 victory in the match.
"Coming into the game, we felt like playing here in the same gym, same environment, against the same team could only benefit us. It was a tremendous experience", said Fayetteville State head coach Reeshemah Johnson. "We took too long to make the correct adjustments", she added.
"We wanted to come into the contest with the correct mindset, and I think we did so", said Wheeling Jesuit head coach Christy Benner. "I think this game prepares us for the NCAA tournament time, which is one mistake and you can be done. We are looking forward to the match up tomorrow against a very good Shippensburg team", she added.
Throughout the match, the Cardinals were led by Kindall and Pew, who combined for 18 kills and just 2 errors. Corrin Early tallied 8 kills and 5 digs, while junior Mackenzie Ripley finished with a team high 12 digs.
The Cardinals will face the number 4 seeded Shippensburg Raiders on Friday, December 6th, beginning at 7:30 p.m. in the second round of the Atlantic Regional Championship.