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ECAC Champions! PSU Volleyball captures tourney crown

            NEW LONDON, N.H. - The No. 3 seeded Plymouth State University Panthers won the 2008 ECAC Division III New England Volleyball Championship Saturday evening, upsetting top seeded Colby-Sawyer College in the title match, 3-1.

            The Panthers, who knocked off second-seeded Johnson & Wales University, 3-1, in Saturday afternoon's semifinal match, rebounded from a first-set loss to knock off Colby-Sawyer for the title, 19-25, 25-19, 25-18, 25-19.  It is the first ECAC championship for PSU, which was playing in the tournament for the sixth time in the last seven years.

            Panthers senior Sarah Spears (Meredith, N.H.) was named the Most Outstanding Player by registering a total of 44 digs in the two matches. PSU completes its season with a 22-14 overall record, while the Chargers wrap up their campaign at 24-13.

            The Chargers came away with the first set as senior Kristen Romanko (Mansfield, Mass.) hit a remarkable .714 while collecting five kills. Chargers' setter Genny Moore (Centerville, Mass.) played well, registering two kills, two service aces and nine assists. 

            Plymouth State jumped out to an early lead and never looked back in the second set.  The Chargers cut the early lead down to 9-8, but the Panthers pulled away as Eliza Badeau (Foster, R.I.) collected three kills giving her nine through two sets.  Spears played exceptionally well on defense as she collected eight digs in the set.

            Once again the Panthers jumped on top of the Chargers in the third set.  Plymouth State junior Kathy Frankowski (Farmington, Conn.) served eight consecutive points and collected six service aces in the set.  Badeau continued her offensive outburst as she recorded six more kills.  Chargers sophomore Michelle Doody (Franklin, Mass.) tallied two kills and three digs in the set.

            The Panthers pounced again gaining an early fourth set lead.  The Chargers made things interesting by closing the Panthers lead to one at 19-18, but Plymouth State's offensive attack proved to be too much.  Badeau raised her match-high total to 21 kills on an outstanding .415 attacking percentage.  Spears defense made it difficult for the Chargers to mount a comeback as she tallied a match-high 29 digs.

            The Chargers were led by Doody, who finished the match with a team-high 13 kills and Romanko who tallied seven kills.  Moore had a solid match collecting 31 assists, seven digs, four kills and three service aces. 

            In PSU's semifinal win, the Panthers beat the No. 2 seeded Johnson & Wales in a thrilling four set match, 28-26, 25-20, 24-26, 25-21.

            The first set was a back-and-forth contest with both teams facing multiple set points down the stretch.  The Panthers were able to hold off the Wildcats and come through with the 28-26 victory.  Meghan Sullivan (Marlton, N.J.) led Plymouth State with four kills and seven digs.  On the other side of the net, Catherine Bravo (Toa Boya, Puerto Rico) registered six kills and seven digs for the Wildcats.

            In the second set, Johnson & Wales senior Kristen Gawrys (Chicago, Ill.) reached a personal milestone as she collected her 1500 career dig.  Gawrys would go on to register a match-high 23 digs.  Despite Gawrys' feat, the Panthers led for most of the set.  Carly Newton (Centerville, Mass.)  tallied five kills in the set to help give her team the 25-20 win.

            The Panthers opened the third set with an imposing 12-3 led behind the play of Badeau and her four kills. With the Wildcats facing elimination, they went on an impressive run of their own as they rallied to tie the score at 16-16.  Johnson & Wales took their first lead of the set at 23-22.  Bravo registered six more kills to lead her team to the come from behind 26-24 victory.

            The Wildcats rode the momentum of their impressive third set win into the beginning of the fourth set as they took a 13-6 lead.  Point by point the Panthers began to crawl back within striking distance as they were led by the Badeau and Newton.  Plymouth State tied the score at 21-21 and went on to win the set and the match as Newton tallied a solo block.

            Bravo finished with 17 kills and 18 digs for the Wildcats, while teammate Brittney Carrier (Southington, Conn.) collected a match-high 47 assists.  Ashley Constantino (Marlton, N.J.) had 13 kills and 19 digs in the match.

            The Panthers were led Badeau, who registered 17 kills.  Brianna Kleckner (Terryville, Conn.) was a solid contributor to the win by recording 17 digs and 41 assists.   Newton finished with a respectable 15 kills with a .333 attacking percentage.

(Courtesy of Colby-Sawyer Sports Information)

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