November 20, 2011

DELAWARE ENDS VCU UPSET BID IN CAA CHAMPIONSHIP

NEWARK, Del. – Virginia Commonwealth University's dramatic postseason run reached the end of the line Sunday night when top-seeded Delaware rallied for a 3-2 (26-24, 17-25, 25-15, 18-25, 15-9) win over the Rams to capture the Colonial Athletic Association Championship at the Bob Carpenter Building.

The Rams (17-16) were seeking to become the first No. 6 seed to win the CAA title. For the third time in three days, VCU pushed a higher seed to the limit. After toppling No. 3 Towson and No. 2 Northeastern in consecutive days, the Rams ran out of gas as the Blue Hens overcame a 2-1 deficit to earn their fourth CAA crown in five years.
 
VCU Head Coach James Finley, who has led the Rams to four CAA Championship Match appearances in seven years, applauded his team's effort.
 
"These girls played like warriors," he said.
 
In the end, it was Delaware's resilience that won the day. The Blue Hens, who overcame a 2-0 deficit in the semifinals to beat James Madison, rallied around tournament-MVP Kim Stewart. A senior outside hitter, Stewart led UD's relentless defensive effort with 20 digs and 11 kills. The Blue Hens dug 91 balls in the match, which allowed Delaware to capture the majority of the contest's extended rallies.
 
VCU senior middle blocker Courtney Hott (Fredericksburg, Va.) and freshman Cecilia Aragao (Recife, Brazil) (pictured, left) were named to the CAA All-Tournament Team. Hott provided 12 kills and seven blocks Sunday, and averaged 2.47 kills and 1.07 blocks in two tournament matches. Aragao added 41 assists, 19 digs and three blocks in the championship and averaged 9.40 assists, 2.60 digs and 0.67 blocks in three matches this weekend.
 
The Rams had two chances to clinch their second CAA Championship, but each time, Delaware turned up the heat. In the fifth, the Blue Hens tightened their grip when Katie Hank used a two kills and a service ace to stake UD to a 6-1 advantage.
 
  VCU, which overcame an 8-3 deficit against Northeastern in the fifth set the previous night, dug in behind junior Kristin Boyd (Wilmington, N.C.), who supplied a pair of kills and a block to trim the lead to 9-6.  But a service error and another Hank kill gave Delaware an 11-6 cushion on the way to the 15-9 triumph.
 
UD hit .269 in the tiebreaker, while VCU, the CAA's top hitting team, was held to an .083 mark. The Rams hit .094 in the match, including .056 in the fourth set.
 
Senior outside hitter Jessica Ojukwu (Sao Paulo, Brazil) and Boyd registered 14 kills each for the Black and Gold. Four players dug at least 12 balls, including junior Marisa Low (Carlsbad, Calif.), who collected 20. Aragao and senior Amanda Friday (Springfield, Va.) dug 19 a piece. Junior Jasmine Waters (Landover, Md.) provided nine blocks and averaged 1.87 per set during the tournament.
 
Alissa Alker led all players with 18 kills for Delaware, while Hank contributed 15. Alker and Karina Evans recorded nine blocks each.
 
VCU will close out the 2011 season on Saturday, Nov. 26 when it heads to Murfreesboro, Tenn. to take on Middle Tennessee State at 3 p.m.
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