NEWPORT NEWS , Va. – The season came to a close for the Gallaudet University women's volleyball team on Friday night as the Bison suffered a 3-0 loss to Randolph-Macon College in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Division III tournament in the Newport News regional hosted by Christopher Newport University. This is the third straight year the Bison have concluded a season in the Freeman Center in the NCAA tournament first round.
Gallaudet ends one of the best seasons in program history with a 31-7 record, a third straight North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) championship and a third consecutive NCAA tournament bid. The 31 wins are the most for a Bison team under the tutelage of head coach Lynn Ray Boren during the past eight seasons.
"I know it is tough to say your season is over now. It was a good game between two good teams. We are trying to stay positive," said Boren. "Overall, we had great and wonderful season."
The match between the Bison and Yellow Jackets (24-6) was closely contested even though the final score shows a straight set victory for Randolph-Macon, 26-24, 25-17, 25-16. The loss snaps a nine-game winning streak for the Bison.
The two teams exchanged the lead early on in the first set before the Yellow Jackets took control with a 5-1 run after being tied at 3 and forced Boren to take a timeout. Randolph-Macon increased the margin to 14-9 before the Bison rallied to close the gap as the lead never got greater than four points the rest of the way. A kill by senior middle hitter Jessica Israel (Frederick, Md.) gave GU its first lead at 22-21 since a 2-1 lead early in the set.
The momentum had swung to Gallaudet's advantage but like most of the match the Bison could not sustain it or hold a lead. The next point featured a long rally between the two teams. Sophomore setter Sarah Tubert (Burbank, Calif.) dove into the official scorer's table to keep a point alive as Gallaudet got the ball back over the net before Randolph-Macon's Hilary Jessee made the kill to tie the game at 22. The Yellow Jackets scored the next two points before the Bison regained the serve after a kill by senior outside hitter Ann Whited (Fishers, Ind.) made it 24-23 in favor of the Yellow Jackets. Whited made one of her seven kills in the match to tie it at 24. Freshman Kate Fetzer (Noblesville, Ind.) served the next ball into the net to give the Yellow Jackets a 25-24 advantage. The first set ended on a Bison attack error after a long rally.
GU got off to another slow start in the second set down 1-4 and then 3-7 before Boren was forced to call a timeout. Gallaudet battled back to within one down 8-9 before the Yellow Jackets went on a 6-0 run and forced Boren to call a second timeout. Randolph-Macon started to pull away as Gallaudet only got within four, 15-19, before the Yellow Jackets won the second set 17-25.
The Bison trailed 0-6 in the third set and never fully recovered. Gallaudet pulled with several points during the match but the Yellow Jackets outscored the Bison 11-8 en route to the 16-25 set win.
Sophomore Kali Frowick (Norfolk, Neb.) led all hitters with 14 kills and 14 digs. Whited matched Frowick with 14 digs and one service ace. Tubert passed out 24 assists, made three kills and two blocks. Israel finished with three kills and two blocks while junior Lane Peters (Phoenix, Ariz) added five kills and one block solo. Senior Mari Klassen (White Rock, British Columbia) had 11 digs in the loss.
"It is heartbreaking to see our season end like this. We have accomplished a lot as a team and we have a lot to be proud of," said Whited after the match in the NCAA press conference.
The senior class of Israel, Klassen and Whited finish their Bison careers with a stellar 109-45 (.707) career record, three NEAC championships and three straight trips to the NCAA tournament.
"I want to say how fortunate I have been to have these three women with our program for the past four years. They gave a lot to our team," said Boren. "I know for our future we will be in good hands because we had such great leaders this year. It is going to be tough to replace them."
In four seasons the trio of seniors compiled these statistics; Israel had 957 kills, 369 blocks (174 block solo, 195 block assists), 105 digs; Klassen finished with 619 kills, 1,219 digs and 274 service aces; Whited tallied 1,475 kills, 1,344 digs, 205 service aces and 73 blocks.
"For the seniors this was our favorite season by far. We won 31 games, a third conference championship and made it back to the NCAA tournament," said Whited. "As a team we loved each other, laughed a lot and had tons of fun. This team really means a lot to all of us."
Klassen added during the press conference; "This is an awesome team. As a whole we were able to pull together because we have been through a lot."
Notes: Gallaudet's last loss occurred on Oct. 11 in a 3-1 home loss to Stevenson University…GU dropped its first set in the past 16 sets played…Gallaudet last advanced out of the NCAA tournament first round in 2006 when the Bison made it to the regional final.