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Jesuit volleyball advances in NCAA

WHEELING — It was business as usual for the Wheeling Jesuit volleyball during the opening round of the Atlantic Regional Tournament. The Cardinals went into Thursday’s match against Shaw in familiar territory as the tournament host and came away with a 25-17, 25-13, 25-20 sweep to advance to the semifinal inside the Alma Grace McDonough Center.

Wheeling Jesuit will face Clarion tonight at 7:30 p.m. with a spot in the championship game on the line.

The win makes it 27 straight for the Cardinals.

“Congrats to Shaw,” Wheeling Jesuit (35-3) coach Christy Benner said. They have a very nice team. It’s hard to play that last game of the day when you’re waiting around all day, watching all the competition and you finally get to the game. I thought they did a great job of playing and they had high energy. I’m proud of the 3-0 win, coming out, executing pretty well and hitting above 300 percent against a team that blocks pretty well. I’m real happy about moving on.”

The Cardinals most dominant performance of the night came in the second set even after falling behind in the early going. Down 4-3, Wheeling Jesuit scored eight of the next nine points to take a commanding six-point lead (11-5).

Later in the set, Wheeling Jesuit put together another small spurt as it rattled off five consecutive points to put the score at 20-10, the first double-digit lead of the match and Shaw was not able to climb its way out of the hole.

Shaw, though, gave Wheeling Jesuit something to fight for in the third set. The two teams battled back and forth for the first 10 points as the scoreboard read 5-5. The Cardinals, though were able to put another spurt on the floor as it went on a 6-1 run to make it 11-6.

Shaw did not call it quits, though. Down by five, the Bears were able to get within striking distance making it a one-point set, 18-17. However, the Cardinals were going for the sweep and got the momentum they needed.

Scoring four straight points, it all put the match out of reach for the Bears.

“I thought we played in spurts,” Shaw coach Christina Coleman said. “I thought we had a lot of good moments. I thought that we came out and somewhat executed our gameplan. It just didn’t work in our favor (Thursday). I thought we hung in there tough. There were moments where we could have exceeded the expectations, but we just fell a little bit short in some areas.”

Cassie Meyer was solid with 14 kills, four digs and 15.5 points while Haley Kramer stuffed the stat sheet for Wheeling Jesuit with 13 kills and 15 points.

Stephanie Sylvester tallied five kills, 39 assists, five points and six digs while Breanna Kramer had four kills and four points. Makenna Babb compiled 10 digs to go along with three kills.

Keveesha Wattley had a solid night for Shaw with nine kills and 10.5 points while Saraya Klink compiled seven kills and nine points.

Wheeling Jesuit’s next opponent, Clarion is no stranger to the Cardinals. The two teams met earlier in the season at the Atlantic Region Crossover. The Cardinals defeated the Golden Eagles in straight sets on Sept. 7. Clarion defeated Shippensburg on Thursday 26-24, 25-19, 21-25, 18-25, 15-7.

“They play really well,” Benner said about Clarion. “They play with a lot of heart and they do things technically really well. They’re coached well. They give it their all. We’ve had a long relationship with Clarion. We usually play each other in preseason, they come to our tournament, we’ve gone up there and we’ve played them in post season it seems like every year. It’ll be a great battle and one that we’re familiar with and so are they.”

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