Amherst, N.Y. - In front of a raucous home crowd at Lumsden Gymnasium, the top-seeded Daemen College women's volleyball team outlasted second-seeded Molloy College 3-1 (25-20, 23-25, 25-20, 25-23) to capture the program's first-ever East Coast Conference Championship. The Wildcats, now 21-10 on the season, will represent the ECC as the league's automatic qualifier for the upcoming NCAA Division II Championship. Regional bids, host sites and dates will be announced Sunday at 10 p.m. on the NCAA Selection Show at ncaa.com.
Daemen advanced to today's championship match with a 3-1 win last night over fourth-seeded University of Bridgeport. Molloy, the defending ECC champions, survived a heart-pounding five-set thriller in yesterday's semifinal nightcap, ousting third-seeded LIU Post. The semifinal victories set up a meeting between the third- and fourth-ranked teams in the latest NCAA Division II East Region poll. Daemen earned their third win this season over the Lions after sweeping the teams' two regular season meetings as well. The Wildcats are 11-3 all-time against Molloy.
Junior middle blocker Cristina Apostol (Bucharest, Romania) was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. Apostol, who totaled a team-best 13 kills in Daemen's semifinal win over Bridgeport, did a little bit of everything today for coach Stephanie Albano's team. She totaled eight kills, nine digs, seven assists, four blocks, and a service ace today. In two conference tournament matches, Apostol averaged 2.63 kills per set and attacked at a .306 clip.
Sophomore outside hitter Allison Post (Windsor, Calif.) paced the Daemen offense today with a match-high 18 kills. Post has developed into the Wildcats' go-to offensive player of late. She's now reached double-figure kills in six of the last seven matches, and is averaging 3.85 kills per set in that span. She added nine digs on the defensive side today too.
On the right side, redshirt junior Courtney Bernard (Lancaster, Ohio) came through with a season-high 13 kills, and she matched her career-high with seven blocks. Meghan Ballou (Eden, N.Y.) chipped in with eight kills, and Sam Logan (Eden, N.Y.) added seven.
Isa McCaffrey (North Royalton, Ohio) and Georgia Wicker (Woodstock, Ill.) continued to split the setting duties for Daemen. The duo combined for 42 of Daemen's 53 assists. Wicker added 11 digs to record her second career double-double. Sophomore libero Ali Greenwood(North Aurora, Ill.) led the Wildcat defensive efforts with 18 digs, and Logan chipped in with 14.
Carly Banks notched 13 kills on 33 attempts, and Kacey Affrunti reached double figures with 10 kills to pace Molloy. Sophia Smith recorded a match-high 27 assists, and Jessica Fischetti took match-high honors with 24 digs.
Daemen blitzed Molloy early in the first set, winning 14 of the first 20 points. The Lions came back and cut the deficit to just a single point at 18-17, but Daemen re-established control with a 5-1 run. The Wildcats took the opening set 25-20.
It looked as if Daemen would take a commanding 2-0 lead in sets as they built a 22-17 advantage late in the second. Molloy exploded with an 8-1 run to close the set and even the match at one set apiece. Molloy got kills from four different players and were aided by a quartet of Daemen hitting errors in the spurt.
A see-saw battle ensued in the pivotal third set, resulting in nine lead changes. The final one came with Molloy leading 20-19 when Daemen responded by scoring the final six points of the frame. This time it was four hitting errors by Molloy that swung the balance, along with kills by Apostol and Bernard.
In the fourth set, a quick 4-0 spurt by the Wildcats snapped a 13-13 tie and put the hosts in control. Post totaled a trio of kills in the span. Molloy regrouped and pulled even twice late in the set, first at 21-21, then at 23-23. With the possibility of going to a fifth set on the line, and the automatic NCAA tourney bid hanging in the balance, Daemen got a kill from Post to go ahead by one, followed by a Bernard and Apostol block to close out the set and the match.
The historic ECC Championship victory came in Daemen's second go-round in conference tournament play at the Division II level. The Wildcats previously qualified for the ECC Championship in 2016, advancing to the finals before bowing out against second-seeded New York Institute of Technology. The Wildcats went on to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Division II Championship and advanced to the regional finals that season.
Provided by the Daemen Sports Information Department.