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Volleyball reclaims SUNYAC Tournament crown

by Paul Cifonelli - Sports Editor
Tue, Nov 12th 2019 09:05 pm
Junior Meaghan Mastro prepares to jump to serve a ball over the net on Friday, Nov. 8. Mastro was named SUNYAC Tournament MVP.
Junior Meaghan Mastro prepares to jump to serve a ball over the net on Friday, Nov. 8. Mastro was named SUNYAC Tournament MVP.

Following a one-year removal from the top of the SUNYAC, The College at Brockport volleyball team has taken its status as the league’s top team back. SUNY New Paltz won the SUNYAC Tournament in 2018, which was the first time since 2014 the banner did not come to Brockport. Despite a rocky start to the 2019 season, the Golden Eagles pulled through in conference play to secure a first round bye.

The bye Brockport was able to gain proved to be useful, as it was able to breeze through the semifinals and finals of the SUNYAC Tournament.

SUNY Cortland, the #3 seed, was Brockport’s semifinal opponent on Friday, Nov. 8. Every set was tightly contested, as the highest point differential in any set was five. The Golden Eagles took the first two 27-25 and 25-21. After dropping the third set to the Red Dragons 25-20, Brockport won the fourth set by the same score to secure its trip in the finals.

The SUNYAC Tournament finals was a chance for Brockport to exact revenge on SUNY Geneseo. Geneseo beat Brockport in straight sets during the regular season to hand the Golden Eagles one of their two conference losses. Brockport flipped the script in the game that mattered most, defeating the Knights three sets to one.

Brockport dominated the first set, winning 25-14. The second frame was closer, but the Golden Eagles pulled out a 25-20 victory to come within one point of a SUNYAC title. Following a disastrous third set that Geneseo won 25-12, Brockport secured the championship with a 25-19 win in the fourth set.

For some members of the team, this was their first experience holding the championship banner after the match ended. For a program that has had such great success so recently, this felt like the culmination of a lot of hard work to get its title back.

“Holding the banner for the for the first time was definitely an amazing feeling just knowing how young our team is and how much we’ve improved individually and as a team,” sophomore setter Kerri McHale said. “It was the first SUNYAC championship for a lot of the team and I believe this is just the start of something great.”

Junior Meaghan Mastro, the MVP of the SUNYAC Tournament, carried the offense over the two matches, tallying 33 kills. Her 18 kills in the championship game were four behind her season-high. Sophomore outside hitter Andrea Coyle was the only other Golden Eagle to notch double-digit kills in each game, picking up 24 between the two bouts. McHale and senior setter Abbey Manning has nearly identical assist numbers, with McHale piling up 42 and Manning 41. Sophomore defensive specialists Ellen Paddock and Shelby Budnick carried the defense. Paddock collected 33 digs on the weekend while Budnick had 25.

Winning has become a staple for Brockport’s volleyball program. Brockport has had a winning record in conference play and overall every season since 2014. Head coach Steve Pike has been around for all of those winning seasons and just one losing one in 2013, which still marked improvement from before his time here. Since the overwhelming success of the program has been kept up for quite a while now, the players expect to win and anything short of that is considered a disappointment.

“Winning has always been an expectation on this team and the fact that we lost last year was pretty much unheard of,” senior middle blocker Elena Grossman said. “At the beginning of the year it wasn’t looking so good but we pulled it together and now I think Brockport volleyball is back to the winning program it was and it should stay that way.”

Brockport now has the NCAA Tournament to look forward to. Its first matchup will be with Wellesley College on Friday, Nov. 15 at 5:30 p.m. Should the Golden Eagles advance, they would play on Saturday, Nov. 16 and Sunday, Nov. 17.

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Taken by Vincent Croce:
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