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BETHANY TO PLAY FOR PAC VOLLEYBALL CROWN THIS WEEKEND
Nov. 3 - BETHANY, W.Va. – Already with the second-most wins in school history, the Bethany College volleyball team will try to add its outstanding season when it plays for the PAC Tournament championship this weekend. Top-seeded Geneva will host the semifinals Friday night at 6 and 8 and the title match Saturday at 4.
The opening semifinal match will pit #1 Geneva (25-8, 17-1) against #5 Westminster (20-11, 11-7), who knocked off fourth-seeded Thiel on the road in a first round match Tuesday. The second-seeded Bison (27-5, 14-4) will take the court against #3 Thomas More (19-10, 13-5) at 8 p.m. in the other semifinal and the two winners advance to the championship match Saturday afternoon.
The 27 wins for BC this year are the second-most in school history behind only the 1987 team that finished 28-22. The program also set a new record for most PAC wins in a season, which included going 1-1 against the other three semifinalists and handing Geneva its only conference loss this season back on Oct. 1 in a tri-match at Thomas More.
The Bison, who are making their first-ever appearance in the PAC semifinals, have proven to be very formidable and efficient at the net both offensively and defensively this year. The Green and White lead the conference in hitting percentage at .274 and are right behind Geneva (12.86) in kills per set with 12.78. Opponents have found hitting through the Bethany front row difficult, as BC’s 273 total blocks and 2.39 blocks per game are both tops in the league.
Highlighting both areas for the Bison is middle blocker Carrie Talkington (Moundsville, W.Va./John Marshall). The 5-10 senior is the PAC leader in hitting percentage (.380), total kills (373), kills per game (3.42) and total blocks (133.0). Talkington became just the fourth Bethany player in history to go over 1,000 career kills in the Oct. 13 victory over Waynesburg and broke the program’s career assisted block record in the final regular season match against Thomas More.
Outside of Talkington, the front row is loaded with talented hitters for Bethany. Junior Taylor Cassidy (Barboursville, W.Va./Cabell Midland) hammered 332 total kills this fall and ranks sixth in the league with 3.05 per game. Junior Lauren Goodwill (Canton, Ohio/Jackson) chipped in with 192 kills and a .294 hitting percentage (10th in the PAC) from the right side attack position and freshman Breana Harris (Severn, Md./Old Mill) made an immediate impact with 145 kills and the fifth-best hitting percentage in the conference at .324.
Engineering the explosive Bethany attack is junior setter Jessica Zavatchen (Uniontown, Pa./Laurel Highlands). Now in her third year running the BC offense, she has already broken the school’s career assist record. Her 10.88 assists per set has her atop the PAC and ranked sixth in all of Division III. Zavatchen has 13 matches this year with 40 or more assists and is a solid two-way player. She is third on the team with 232 digs and nine times has recorded double digits in assists and digs.
While the Bison are tough at the net defensively, they are also very strong in the back row. Senior libero Tiffany Hoffman (Cambridge, Ohio/John Glenn), who became the second player in school history to go over 2,000 career digs earlier this season, ranks third in the conference with 5.11 digs per set. Senior Megan Hoffman (Cambridge, Ohio/John Glenn) ranks second on the team with 297 digs and the sisters also provide the spark in Bethany’s serving game. With 50 aces, Tiffany is ranked second in the PAC and Megan has 29, which helped BC rank fourth in the conference with 209 aces for the year.
Bethany’s semifinal opponent had to survive a hard-fought battle in Tuesday’s opening round. Thomas More, who has won two straight PAC Tournament titles, lost the opening two sets to sixth-seeded Saint Vincent, but battled all the way back to take a 3-2 victory. The Saints were beaten by Bethany 3-0 on Oct. 1, but they rallied from a 2-1 deficit to slip past the Bison 3-2 Oct. 27. Thomas More is one of the hotter teams entering the playoffs, having won nine of the last 10 matches with the only slip-up being a 3-1 loss at Geneva.
Thomas More’s attack is led by Katie Sullivan, who has 255 kills and a .365 hitting percentage that is behind only Talkington in the conference, and Karsen Cronin. The 5-10 freshman outside hitter is third in the league with 3.26 kills per set. She also hammered 30 kills in the win at Bethany last week and drilled 23 kills in the first round win over Saint Vincent Tuesday night.
The Saints run a two-setter offense, with Michelle Clifford passing out 8.19 assists per set and Tori Verville sending out 7.44. Another freshman in Kelsey Castiglioni paces TMC with 4.61 digs per set, fourth in the PAC, and aces with 34.
Geneva was impressive from start to finish in its first official year in the PAC, as the Golden Tornadoes just completed a transition period from NAIA to NCAA Division III status. The GTs were 12-7 following the loss to Bethany on Oct. 1, but they ripped off 13 consecutive victories to claim the top seed. Geneva did see that winning streak snapped in its last outing, as Malone won a 3-2 decision in the NCCAA East Regional Finals.
Not only does Geneva rank at the top of the conference in kills, it also is the top team in the PAC in digs with 20.98 per set. Sophomore setter Deanna Briody is even with Zavatchen in assists with 10.88 per set. The top beneficiaries of Briody’s passes are junior Kristland McCracken with 364 kills and Maggie Bowersox with 344. McCracken also leads the GTs with 41 aces and Geneva has the top defensive player as well in senior Brianna Mixter, who has a PAC-high 722 digs.
Westminster has been a staple in the PAC Volleyball Tournament, as the first round win over Thiel gave the Titans their 10th straight appearance in the semifinals. Westminster is just 3-2 in their last five matches, but they were the first team to defeat Bethany with a 3-1 victory in New Wilmington on Sept. 23.
The Titans have the second-best hitting percentage (.251) in the PAC behind only Bethany and they are also tied for first in the circuit with 229 aces. Sophomore Rebecca Riemer has the third-highest hitting percentage in the PAC at .352 and leads Westminster with 309 kills, as well as 92 total blocks. Senior setter Jessie Szakacs triggers the offense with 9.34 assists per set and junior defensive specialist Tara Incerpi has a league-leading 54 aces and a team-best 392 digs.