Volleyball's NJAC Title Hopes Dashed by Stockton

Montclair, NJ (11/7/09)  - Sophomore outside hitter Christine Velott (Moorestown, NJ / Moorestown) registered 16 kills along with eight digs as second-seeded Richard Stockton captured its third New Jersey Athletic Conference championship in the last four years as the Ospreys swept past top-seeded Montclair State at the Panzer Athletic Center on Saturday evening.

Freshman Stephanie Warner (Totowa, NJ / Passaic Valley) added eight kills as the Ospreys (27-11) knocked off the Red Hawks 25-14, 25-19, 30-28 to claim their sixth conference title overall (1996, 1999, 2000, 2006, 2008, 2009) while earning the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA Division III Tournament. The Ospreys will learn of their NCAA fate when the pairings are announced on Monday, November 9.

Richard Stockton also avenged a four-set loss to Montclair State 10 days ago that gave MSU the regular-season championship and home-court advantage for the title game.

Senior middle blocker Anna Chesnakova (East Brunswick, NJ / East Brunswick) had 11 kills and five digs for Montclair State, which ended its season at 14-16 overall. MSU, playing in its fourth NJAC Championship Match, was seeking its third title overall and second in two years.

Tied at 2-2 early in the first set, the Ospreys scored six of the next seven points. Warner had a kill to knot the game at 3-all and Velott the first of her six first-set kills as Stockton took a 4-3  lead it would not relinquish. Velott’s second kill and a service ace by Laura Hausman (Bethlehem, PA / Catasauqua) extended the lead to 10-4. Montclair State would battle back to within 11-8, however Christine Astarita (Selden, NY / Newfield) served five straight points, including an ace as Richard Stockton widened its lead to 16-8. Velott would put away the set with her final kill as the Ospreys took a 1-0 lead in the match with the 25-14 win.

In the second set, Richard Stockton led 6-5 before scoring he next four points as Warner, Becca Sims (Medford, NJ / Shawnee) and Velott each had kills while Montclair made a pair of errors as the lead grew to 10-6. MSU would cut the deficit to one as Samantha Karpinski (Hackensack, NJ / Hackensack) recorded a kill to make the score 13-12. The teams would trade points, but three MSU errors followed by a service ace from Astarita widened the lead as Stockton took an 18-13 advantage. Montclair closed the gap back to 21-18, but Warner came up with a kill that was followed by a service ace and a kill by Velott as Stockton got to set point a 24-18. After an MSU point, Velott made it a 2-0 lead with her fourth kill as Stockton scored a 25-19 triumph.

The third set was the tightest with 16 ties and 10 lead changes. Montclair State moved out in front 17-13 as Michelle Del Valle (Teaneck, NJ / Memorial) served an ace. Stockton would battle back, tying the set a 20-all on an attack error. From there the teams traded points with the Ospreys getting to championship point at 24-23 on a kill by Warner. But Chesnkova held that off with a kill and a Karpinski kill put MSU on the brink of the set at 25-24. However, MSU could not close out the match as a service error tied the game. Velott gave the Ospreys another chance to end the match as she put down a kill only to be answered again by Chesnakova as the set was tied at 26-26. Adrianne Moe’s (Rutherford, NJ / Rutherford) kill gave MSU its second set point but Velott counter for Richard Stockton.

Anna Streicher (Marlton, NJ / Cherokee) knocked down a Hausman set for a 27-28 lead, but again the Ospreys could not close out the match as Kara Burnham (Moorestown, NJ / Moorestown) blocked Tabitha Nehman (Runnemede, NJ / Out Lady of Mercy) for the 16th tie at 28-28. Montclair State could not carry the momentum as the Red Hawks committed their 10th service error in the match leaving the door open for the Ospreys who this time nailed down the final point as Kelleigh Best (Medford, NJ / Shawnee) put down a kill for the championship.

Sims and Best each had six kills for Stockton while Hausman collected 21 assists to go along with 10 digs. Allison Kleeman (Cherry Hill, NJ / Cherry Hill West) added 13 digs with Astarita added 11 digs. Jackie Aldrich (Westhampton Beach, NY / Westhampton Beach) had 14 assists.

Karpinski and Chesnakova each had seven kills for MSU while libero Meghan Stevens (Woodcliff Lake, NJ / Pascack Hills) contributed 14 digs. Martin added five digs with Del Valle Picking up 26 assists and eight digs.