Niagara becomes the fourth MAAC tema to win at least three volleyball consecutive volleyball championships.
Niagara becomes the fourth MAAC tema to win at least three volleyball consecutive volleyball championships.
Courtesy: MAAC Sports

Niagara Defeats Fairfield to Complete 3-Peat

Courtesy:  MAAC Sports
Release:  November 20, 2011
Jersey City, N.J. - Niagara University defeated Fairfield University in the 2011 MAAC Volleyball Championship Match, 3-1 (23-25, 25-17, 34-32, 25-18), to win its third straight MAAC Championship title.

Niagara (25-8) claims the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year and third time in program history. The Purple Eagles will find out their opponents in the 2011 NCAA Tournament on Sunday, Nov. 27 at 6 p.m. on ESPNU.

NU becomes the fourth team in MAAC history to win three straight titles and first since Siena won four straight from 2005-08. Niagara had to defeat a tough Fairfield (20-10) squad that suffered only three losses to MAAC teams this season; all coming against the Purple Eagles.

"Amazing," head coach Susan Clements stated about the win. "We worked so hard and just wanted to win. It was a match where we were fighting so hard and at the end we were able to get those points that could have gone either way went our way."

Niagara's quest for a 3-peat became arduous when the Stags took the opening set, 25-23. Niagara tied the set at 23-23, but committed one of its five service errors in the set on the next point and Fairfield score the final point on its serve. NU responded in the following set by winning, 25-17, behind a 12-4 run to end the set.

The next set was one of the most thrilling sets in recent MAAC Championships and Niagara needed every bit of its championship experience in the set. Trailing 15-12, NU tied the match at 16-16 and eventually took a 22-20 lead. However, four straight points by the Stags gave them a 24-22 lead. An attacking error by Fairfield kept Niagara in the match as the two teams exchanged points through extremely long rallies and great hustle plays.

With the match tied at 32-32, the Purple Eagles went to the MAAC Tournament Most Outstanding Player Kari Honomichl. The junior outside hitter rose to the occasion and provided the final two kills to pull out the third set, 34-32.

"I think that was the decisive set," Clements said. "We have been in that situation many times this season and I kept telling them to relax, we have been here before. When it gets down close, let our experience take over and stick the ball nice and high and go out there and be aggressive."

"We had the momentum after that game," Hannah Hedrick added. "It was a very competitive game and who ever won that game would have momentum coming into the fourth (set)."

Niagara used that momentum to surpass the deflated Stags in the fourth set. Niagara finished the set with a .567 hitting percentage (18 kills, one error) and ended the match with an ace by senior Lisa Bilich.

"We just stuck to the game plan that our coach gave us," Hedrick said about winning the program's third title. "It was hard work every day and commitment year round."

Hedrick had a match-high 20 kills and added 11 digs for her team-leading 17th double-double of the season. Honomichl had 19 kills and 14 digs and Sam Morgan tied a match-high with 19 digs to extend her NCAA-best double-digit digs streak to 129 matches. All three were named to the MAAC All-Tournament Team. Freshman setter Nicole Bayer had a double-double of her own with 57 assists and 14 digs. Ellen Senf (13 kills), Kathy Bibler (9 kills), Amanda Wilken (7 kills) and Taylor Scully (10 digs) all contributed in the win.

Niagara tied the program's single-season record with 25 wins and is 39-2 against MAAC teams since 2010.

MAAC All-Tournament Team

Janelle Davis

Canisius College

Colleen Ahearn

Siena College

Rachel Romansky

Fairfield University

Kara Reis

Fairfield University

Sam Morgan

Niagara University

Hannah Hedrick

Niagara University

Kari Honomichl

Niagara University (MOP)


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