Nov. 8 - BETHANY, W.Va. – For the first time in school history, the Bethany College volleyball team has earned a postseason bid, as they will be the #3 seed for the ECAC South Region Tournament that begins Wednesday night when they host #6 Stevenson (Md.) University at Hummel Field House in a quarterfinal match-up at 7 p.m.
The Bison have compiled a 21-13 record to this point, the third-most wins in school history and set a new school-record for conference victories by going 9-7 in the PAC. They finished in fifth place in the PAC and lost a heart-breaking 3-2 decision at Saint Vincent in the league tournament quarterfinals.
If the Bison defeat Stevenson in Wednesday’s quarterfinal, they advance to the semifinals Saturday against the winner of the #2 Swarthmore (Pa.) College (19-10)/#7 DeSales (Pa.) University (15-15) tilt. Wednesday’s other first round match-ups will pit #1 Saint Vincent (22-11) against #8 Penn State Behrend (19-11) and #5 Moravian (22-11) at #4 Penn State-Altoona (21-11). The semifinals and championship matches will be hosted at the highest seed following the quarterfinal round.
"I am very excited for the team to get this opportunity to compete in the ECAC Tournament," said Bison head coach Courtney Kline. "The team has been playing exceptionally well and I feel are very deserving of this opportunity to compete in the postseason."
Bethany’s offensive attack is triggered by sophomore setter Jessica Zavatchen (Uniontown, Pa./Laurel Highlands). A stellar all-around player, she broke her own single-season school record with 1,283 assists and was also second on the team with 75 blocks, third with 24 service aces and fourth with 269 digs.
Zavatchen has a plethora of strong hitters to set up, led by junior Carrie Talkington (Moundsville, W.Va./John Marshall) who developed into one of the top players in the conference at the net. She is second in the PAC with a .379 hitting percentage and with 379 kills, the fifth-most in Bethany single-season history. In addition, Talkington is the PAC leader in total blocks with 150.
Four other BC players recorded over 200 kills this season to provide a balanced attack for the Green and White. Sophomore Taylor Cassidy (Barboursville, W.Va./Cabell Midland) put away 295 balls, while sophomore Lauren Goodwill (Canton, Ohio/Jackson) registered 247 kills, junior Jessica Cole (Connellsville,Pa.) has 238 and sophomore Meredith Holl (Mogadore, Ohio) totaled 207.
The Bison also boast a very good defense, as they are third in the PAC in total blocks with 274. Their back row efforts are highlighted by junior Tiffany Hoffman (Cambridge, Ohio/John Glenn), who in addition to becoming just the fourth player in Bethany history to go over 1,500 career digs, is ranked seventh in the conference with 4.45 digs per set. In addition to her hitting ability, Cole has proven to be a very good two-way player with 3.16 digs per set while Tiffany’s twin sister Megan Hoffman is bringing up 2.63 digs per set.
Bethany’s opening round opponent Stevenson is based out of Owings Mills, Md., and hails from the Capital Athletic Conference. They posted a 25-8 overall record and were 3-5 in league play to earn the sixth seed for the CAC Tournament where they suffered a similar fate that the Bison did, losing in five sets to Salisbury in the quarterfinals. This is Stevenson’s second trip to the ECAC Tournament in the last three years, as they reached the semifinals back in 2008.
The Mustangs rely on two big hitters up front to spark their offense, as sophomore outside hitter Avery Gabbard leads the team with 331 kills and senior middle blocker Alex Mercer has 266. Stevenson’s main setter Jessica Gieselman not only averages 7.44 assists per set but also has 81 service aces for the year. In addition to being a leading hitter, Mercer is also a force at the net with 96 blocks, while the backrow defense is led by Alexa Carney, with 361 digs to go over 1,000 for her career and Gabbard also amassed 350 digs.