Volleyball beats Canisius on Senior Day 3-1, clinches MAAC Tournament birth

Juliana Nikac and Kevin Higgins

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Photo: Samantha Bashaw

Photo: Samantha Bashaw

The Quinnipiac University women’s volleyball team took down Canisius College, 3-1. The Bobcats (10-20 overall, 9-8 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) celebrated Senior Day for two players who represent the winningest class (39 wins) in Bobcats Division I history: Jamie Termotto and Elizabeth Kloos.

“What they’ve done to this program… it’s just a testament to how bad they want it, how bad they want to win,” Quinnipiac head coach Kris Czaplinski said of the duo.

Although Senior Day is always important, this game also had big MAAC Tournament implications. Only six teams make the tournament, and there are four teams on the fringe of being there, but only three will clinch a tourney berth. Quinnipiac, Iona, Canisius and Rider all have either eight or nine wins, and they will strive for those final three spots.

With that preface, this loss is a devastating blow for Canisius’ (10-17 overall, 8-9 MAAC) chances of making the tournament. Although it is an uphill climb for them, the Golden Griffs will look for a three-way tie between themselves, Quinnipiac, and Iona, as the Bobcats would be the odd team out in that case.

As for the game itself, Quinnipiac came out with power. Natalie Alechko and Kat Miller were thunder and lightning in the first set, combining for 11 kills. As those two provided almost half of the points for Quinnipiac, Kaleigh Oates and Haley Anderson stood out as well. Oates and Maria Pansari developed a good rapport, with Oates slamming down many of Pansari’s sets. Anderson, on the other hand, was a catalyst through her serves, as she fooled Canisius time and time again by mixing speeds with good ball placement. The set was kept close by Canisius, mainly through the performance of the Griffs’ Claire Leonard, who had three kills in the opening frame. However, the Bobcats closed with a 6-0 run, taking the first set 25-16.

The second set probably could’ve been called “The Sara Wesley Show”, because she put her entire Canisius team on her back during a wonderful performance. Wesley dominated offensively, with a staggering seven kills. When she wasn’t punishing the ball into the court, Wesley was also a defensive standout. Her presence at the net alone caused many Bobcats to try and force awkward shots away from her, setting up easy Canisius points. The Griffs shut down Alechko and Miller for one kill apiece, and despite Quinnipiac’s best efforts, Canisius took a closely contested second set, 26-24.

The third set seemed to be much like the second, with both teams going back and forth throughout. With Quinnipiac leading 15-11, the squads electrified the crowd with the point of the match. After a long rally that saw many blocks, attempted kills, digs, and all-around terrific volleyball, the Bobcats’ Maria Pansari took matters into her own hands. Instead of trying to just get the ball over and reset, Pansari, who is on pace to have the most assists in program history, picked up a huge kill, as she placed the ball over the whole Canisius team, just in bounds. The crowd erupted, the team was pumped, and Canisius couldn’t recover during a 25-20 third set loss.

With a chance to close the game out, Quinnipiac jumped to an early lead and didn’t look back. The Bobcats shut down Leonard and Wesley, and the Alechko/Miller connection was back on, which spelled doom for the Golden Griffs. Much of the reason Alechko and Miller came alive again in the fourth was due to Pansari, who was setting up kill opportunities left and right.

“I thought this was one of her better setting games,” Czaplinski said. “She got the ball to the right people at the right times.”

After Canisius’ Kristen Plukas fired her serve into the net on match point, the Bobcats came away with a 25-16 win to end the match. A win with significant tournament implications, Quinnipiac knows anything can happen. As Czaplinski pointed out, “Records are out the window right now.”

Quinnipiac finishes the regular season hosting Niagara on Sunday at 1 p.m., while Canisius travels to face first-place Fairfield Sunday at 1 p.m.