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Bison Aiming to Bring Home PAC Volleyball Title This Weekend

Nov. 1 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany College volleyball team will head to Thomas More this weekend for the 2012 PAC Volleyball Tournament with the goal of bringing back the program’s first conference title.

The third-seeded Bison will take on #2 Thiel (22-7) in Friday’s second semifinal. The opening match Friday will pit top seed and host Thomas More (24-5) against fifth-seeded Westminster (22-10), who upended #4 Geneva in the other quarterfinal match Tuesday night. The semifinal winners will take the court Saturday at 4 p.m. to decide the PAC Tournament Championship, with that victor earning the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

3189Zavatchen12.jpgAfter reaching the tournament final last year before falling at Geneva, the Bison went through another outstanding regular season. Bethany brings a 28-7 overall record into the weekend after sweeping past Grove City 3-0 in Tuesday’s quarterfinal. Senior setter Jessica Zavatchen (right - Uniontown, Pa./Laurel Highlands) totaled 31 assists and 10 digs and senior Taylor Cassidy (Barboursville, W.Va./Cabell Midland) had a team-best 10 kills as the Bison tied the program mark for second-most wins in a year behind only last season’s 31 victories.

For Bethany to make its second straight appearance in the title match, it will have to win a third straight over Thiel. The Bison swept the season series from the Tomcats, beginning with a 3-1 decision at BC back on Sept. 22. Cassidy set a career-high with 25 kills and added 10 digs, while senior Lauren Goodwill (Canton, Ohio/Jackson) had 12 kills and Zavatchen recorded 53 assists and 12 digs.

7341Cassidy12.jpgIn the rematch at Thiel Oct. 11, the Bison claimed the final two sets to again come away with a 3-1 triumph. The same trio propelled the Green and White to the victory, as Cassidy had 24 kills, Goodwill provided another dozen and Zavatchen had 47 assists and 17 digs. The Bison back row was strong in the win, as sophomore Kelly Becquet (Finleyville, Pa./Ringgold) brought up 23 digs and freshman Julia Mouch (Toledo, Ohio/Sylvania Southview) had 15, as well as three aces.

According to Bison head coach Courtney Kline, who has a 112-87 record in her six seasons on the Bison bench, says her team has been able to take advantage of some match-ups against Thiel. Exploiting those match-ups will be critical if Kline’s team wants to advance out of the semifinals.

“The past two times we’ve played Thiel, we’ve been very aggressive in our serving and attacking,” said Kline. “We are a power team, so we will continue to swing hard and serve aggressively. We also have some mismatches in our favor, so we will want to take advantage of those.”

The Tomcats rolled into the conference playoffs with a 15-3 league record to finish just ahead of the Bison in the standings for the bye into the semifinals. After Bethany defeated TC on Oct. 11, Thiel claimed wins in eight of their final nine matches. The lone setback was a 3-0 loss at Thomas More, but the Tomcats avenged that setback with a 3-2 triumph over the Saints Oct. 27, which was TMC’s only loss in the league this year.

6396Beebe12.jpgThiel relies on a strong defense, as they lead the PAC with 2.35 blocks per set, just ahead of BC’s 2.31. Senior Kelly Barzak sparks the Tomcats with a PAC-best .332 hitting percentage and she is second in the conference in blocks per set with 0.98, trailing only Bethany sophomore Megan Beebe (Irondale, Ohio/Indian Creek) with 1.06. Another player to watch for Thiel is Alyssa Chine, who leads the program with 360 digs and is second with 243 kills and 29 aces.

Thomas More took the number one seed and hosting privileges for the championship due to a 19-game winning streak that was snapped by the late-season defeat to Thiel. The Saints recovered by winning their final two matches and boasts a perfect 11-0 record at home this year. Thomas More relies on an aggressive attack at the net with 13.41 kills per set, the most in the league, as well as 1.91 aces per set, also a PAC-high. Top players for TMC include setter Tori Verville with 10.50 assists per set, Karsen Cronin, who is second in the league with 3.68 kills per set, and Tyler Deaton, who ranks third in the PAC in hitting percentage (.321).

Westminster is gunning for its fourth PAC championship and first since 2008. The Titans advanced to the weekend by upending Geneva off the strength of 43 assists, 13 digs and five kills from Katie Palkovic. The junior setter sits atop the PAC with 10.52 assists per set while setting up a trio of top hitters in Megan Romocean (308 kills), Rebecca Riemer (238 kills) and Lexi Starheim (217 kills).