Nov. 5 – BEAVER FALLS, Pa. – After the Bethany College volleyball team took the opening game, host and top-seed Geneva rebounded to claim a 3-1 victory (23-25, 25-22, 25-17, 25-22) over the Bison Saturday in the championship match of the PAC Tournament.
In addition to being denied the program’s first-ever conference title, the Bison (28-6) were also unable to clinch an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Golden Tornadoes (27-8) won their initial conference crown in their first year of eligibility after making the transition from NAIA to NCAA Division III.
In the first game of the match, Bethany rolled off four straight points to take the largest lead at 20-16, but Geneva stormed right back with seven of the next nine to take a 23-22 lead. Following a timeout, junior Taylor Cassidy (Barboursville, W.Va./Cabell Midland) hammered three consecutive kills to close out the first game 25-23 in BC’s advantage.
The second game was following a similar script as the first, as the GTs scored two straight to take a 23-21 lead. The Bison looked like they might make another comeback following a kill by senior Carrie Talkington (Moundsville, W.Va./John Marshall), but Geneva finished the set with consecutive kills by Maggie Bowersox and the match was even at 1-1.
The home team opened the third game with four straight points and BC was forced to play catch up the rest of the way. The Bison did get within a point at 11-10, but Geneva would use a string of six straight points to take a 19-11 lead and go on to close out the game for a 2-1 lead.
Bethany looked destined to take the match to a fifth and deciding game, as two Talkington kills sparked a 6-1 surge that placed BC on top 14-9. The cushion grew to as large as 19-13 following a spike by junior Lauren Goodwill (Canton, Ohio/Jackson), but the GTs rallied for the clinching decision. They chipped away to get within 21-20 and after a service error gave the Bison a two-point lead, Geneva struck for five points in a row to win the match and secure the conference title.
The Bison were led by a trio of veteran hitters in the setback. Talkington finished with a team-best 19 kills, while Cassidy delivered 16 and Goodwill turned in 11. Junior Jessica Zavatchen (Uniontown, Pa./Laurel Highlands) recorded her fifth consecutive double-double with 47 assists and 18 digs. Leading the team in digs from the back row were seniors Megan and Tiffany Hoffman (Cambridge, Ohio/John Glenn) with 22 and 21, respectively.
Despite the disappointing finish to the conference tournament, the Bison’s season is not likely over. The 2010 ECAC South Region Tournament champions will probably get a chance to defend that crown and also have a chance to break the school’s single-season record for wins which they have currently tied. The ECAC selections will be announced late Monday afternoon.