As the EPAC No. 3 seed, the Mustangs volleyball team traveled to GSAC No. 2 Seed Bergen Community College for the Region XIX Quarterfinal game Tuesday evening.
During regular season play, the Mustangs tied the Harrisburg Area Community College Hawks for the No. 2 spot in playoffs. A coin toss determined the seeding for the two teams, giving the Mustangs the lower seed.
The matchup between the Bergen Bulldogs and the Mustangs started out in the Mustangs' favor with a 25-17 victory in game one. Game two progressed quickly, with the Mustangs jumping ahead of the Bulldogs, when catastrophe struck.
An injury on the Mustangs' starting lineup swung the momentum in favor of the Bulldogs, who used the shift to close the gap. The Bulldogs almost stole the game but the Mustangs were determined not to let up and secured a 25-21 win in set two.
The injury was the second the Mustangs squad has been dealt this season, as middle Briana Rodriguez suffered a broken ankle earlier in the year.
"We've faced a really unfortunate series of events during the course of our season," commented Mustangs Head Coach Misti Volpe. "This is our second middle to be injured due to close-net play."
In shock from losing a second key player, the Mustangs team faltered in the middle of the match, losing games three and four 18-25 and 16-25 respectively. However, the team did not give up and managed to surge back to take game five with a score of 15-10.
"Our ladies are determined to fight with every ounce of intensity they have," said Volpe. "This team won't just roll over in the face of a few obstacles. These challenges have brought us closer. The girls really are the embodiment of the word, TEAM."
The Mustangs' offensive leader for the evening was outside Alex Griffin, who collected a season and career high of 12 kills. She was followed by fellow outside Liz Herezi who collected eight kills. Setter Nikki Reichert put away six balls of her own for a .625 average on the evening. Jen Casatelli and Kendall Gazzo each added four kills.
Defensively the Mustangs put up a huge block. Knowles lead the effort stopping six balls for the evening. The Mustangs collected 34 digs total, led by libero Kelsey Kowalick with nine. Herezi dug eight balls and Gass and Griffin each added six.
The Mustangs service-reception patterns were led by Kowalick, as well, who passed 35 balls with a 94% efficiency. Herezi passed 21 with a 100% efficiency and Gass passed 14 with a 93% efficiency.
Griffin was the match point leader, having earned 13 points. She was followed by Herezi who tallied 11 points and Knowles who notched 10.
"Our Mustangs played like the champions they are'" said Coach Volpe. "I could not be prouder of the effort and determination they gave me."
With this win, the Mustangs secure a spot in the NJCAA Region XIX Final Four Tournament on Saturday, October 27. The team will travel to Northampton Community College to face off against the No. 1 EPAC seed Spartans in the Semifinal game at 11:00 a.m.
That day Harrisburg Area Community College will also face off against Passaic County Community College at 1:00 p.m. in the Northampton arena. The winners of both games will spar for the championship title at 3:00 p.m.