By John Boccacino/Sports Information Director
The Keuka College women's volleyball team is heading to a familiar place this weekend: Washington, D.C. to compete in the annual North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) postseason tournament.
For the third straight year, Gallaudet University is hosting the NEAC tournament, and the Bison are the four-time defending conference champions.
While Gallaudet (20-13, 11-1 NEAC) earned the right to host the tournament, the fourth-seeded Wolfpack (13-14, 10-2 NEAC) are the only conference squad to knock off the Bison in the last two years, accomplishing the feat in a sweep Oct. 19, 2014, and also Sept. 22. 2013.
Gallaudet earned the No. 1 seed, with Wells College (23-10, 10-2) earning the No. 2 seed for the six-team, three-day competition, which kicks off Friday. Gallaudet and Wells received byes into the semifinals.
Penn State-Berks (18-9, 10-2) earned the No. 3 seed, the Wolfpack are the No. 4 seed, Lancaster Bible College (19-13, 9-3) is the No. 5 seed, and SUNY Polytechnic (16-18, 7-5) is the No. 6 seed.
Live stats and streaming video will be available for most NEAC tournament contests. For more information, visit the Gallaudet NEAC tournament page here.
Keuka and Lancaster Bible will square off at 7 p.m. Friday in one quarterfinal, with Berks and SUNY Polytechnic (formerly SUNYIT) meeting at 5 p.m.
The winner of Keuka/Lancaster Bible College will play host Gallaudet at 12 p.m. Saturday in one semifinal, with Wells playing the Berks/SUNY Polytechnic winner at 2 p.m. in the other semifinal.
The NEAC championship match is at 1 p.m. Sunday, with the winner earning the NEAC's automatic qualifier into the NCAA Division III tournament.
Keuka last won NEAC's in 2004, and fell in the finals in 2005, 2006 and 2012.
"We want to have high energy at all times, and just stay focused on what we need to do to win," said senior Devan Curtis (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente), who earned first-team All-NEAC honors for the first time in her career this fall.
"We know that we can compete with the other teams at the tournament, because we do have the skills be the best team. If we keep our energy up, I think we're unstoppable. We have to just take it one game at a time. Each match is important, and we're all just looking to make it to the NEAC championship. I say we have the talent to be the best."
It took a while for the Wolfpack to gel on the court, as Keuka dropped its first eight games this year, but once the student-athletes gained some confidence, the wins came in bunches.
Head coach Ben Guiliano's team won five straight matches from Oct. 4-9, including a perfect 4-0 at the second NEAC crossover competition.
The Wolfpack won their first eight conference clashes, and bounced back from a three-set loss to Penn State-Berks (Oct. 18) with a convincing, three-set sweep of the Bison (Oct. 19).
That win over Gallaudet gave Keuka's student-athletes the confidence that they could compete with and knock off the conference's most talented teams, said senior Danielle Alred (Horseheads, N.Y./Horseheads).
"I think we're pretty confident. We've had a lot of tough practices lately, and that is really getting us ready for the tough competition we will face at NEAC's," said Alred, who earned third-team All-NEAC, the first all-conference honor of her career.
"That win over Gallaudet was huge for us. It was such a good game, and it was a tough match for us. We were expecting it to go five sets, and then we swept them. It was so exciting and we were so stoked, that's one of the few times we've beaten Gallaudet and it was a really good game for all of us. That win gives us the confidence, the hope and the motivation to win the whole thing."
Curtis, who earned the fourth All-NEAC honor of her career, led the team kills (203) and kills per set (2.18). She recorded five double-doubles, including 11 kills with 20 digs during a four-set win over SUNY Polytechnic (Oct. 4), and 15 kills with 13 digs during a four-set win over Lancaster Bible College (Sept. 19).
Curtis also led the Wolfpack in aces (53), and was ninth in the NEAC in aces. She was second on the team in digs (286), and digs/set (3.08), and led the team with 2.8 points per set.
Alred compiled 82 kills with 35 blocks for the Wolfpack. She was second on the team in total blocks, and fifth in kills.
Alred was second on the team (among student-athletes with 100 or more total attacks) with a .169 hitting percentage. She averaged 1.6 points per set.
The Wolfpack also received solid contributions from freshman Katelyn Warren (Elmira Heights, N.Y./Thomas A. Edison), who recorded 105 kills with 48 blocks, 27 digs and 15 aces. Warren led the Green and Gold in both total blocks (48) and blocks/set (0.59), and she ranked third in kills.
Sophomore Tally McDonald (Romulus, N.Y./Romulus) recorded 153 kills with 34 digs and 26 blocks, and she finished second on the team in both kills and kills/set (1.78).
Sophomore Kaitlin Burke (Painted Post, N.Y./Corning West) led Keuka in digs (359), while seniors Julia Coryell (Phelps, N.Y./Midlakes), Brittany Kuhn (Palmyra, N.Y./Palmyra-Macedon) and Rachel Parker (Chaumont, N.Y./Thousand Islands) combined to average 7.52 assists per set.
"If we play with our hearts and go all-out, hopefully that's enough to keep us playing volleyball all weekend," Curtis said.
"Our confidence is pretty high right now. We're a talented team that started off pretty slowly, but we are on a roll now and we've grown so much since the beginning of the season. We are more focused now and we all want it more."
Against the other NEAC-bound teams, Keuka posted a 3-2 record. The Wolfpack knocked off Lancaster Bible College in four sets, swept Gallaudet and handed SUNY Poly a four-set setback Oct. 4.
Keuka also was swept by Berks Oct. 18, and fell in four sets to Wells College Oct. 28.