Excitement surrounded the VCU volleyball team with its first-ever CAA regular season championship. The Rams needed just two home wins to clinch a berth in the NCAA tournament and the school’s second CAA title in volleyball.
The Rams crushed William & Mary 3-0 Monday to secure a spot in the championship game against George Mason.
Michala Kvapilova led the VCU rout with 15 kills. Ivana Rich turned in a solid performance with 13 to go along with it. Mariel Frey had 16 digs.
“I thought that the girls played really well. I thought that they were a little bit hyper,” VCU coach James Finley said. “When we found that focus, it really changed the momentum heading into the second game. I was really pleased with our performance.”
In the final match, VCU blew a 2-0 lead and lost three straight sets to George Mason, losing the CAA title in heartbreaking fashion.
In game one, the Rams got out to 13-8 lead before the Patriots fought back and eventually pulled the score to 20-20.
The two battled back and forth until the end of the set before VCU was able to take the set 29-27.
The second set was essentially a carbon copy of the first, after the Rams got out to a 10-6 advantage before Mason pulled back and actually took the lead at 20-19.
VCU was able to dominate the action down the stretch again, however, winning the set 27-25.
“We came out ready to play and came back and found a way to win in the first two sets. I’m really proud of the effort,” Finley said.
However, something seemed to change when the two teams came out of the locker room after the intermission.
All of a sudden, the Rams were playing tight and the Patriots looked like the team up 2-0.
In the third set, Mason dominated the action. After jumping out to a 15-9 lead, they ended up crushing VCU 25-16 in the set.
After they attempted to hit the reset button, VCU struggled again in game four. Although the Rams were able to get close, they lost 25-23 setting up a fifth and final set for the title.
“I thought we had game four and this thing was going to be over,” Finley said.
In the final set, George Mason took advantage of a few VCU mistakes to dominate the Rams and take the CAA championship.
Mason won five of the first six points.
Then VCU started to miss its serves, which limited any chance of coming back in the game. The Rams missed three consecutive serves and missed another one later in the set, eventually losing 15-9.
VCU recovered from the heartbreak of Tuesday night by winning two matches 3-0 in the VCU/Third Degree Sportswear Thanksgiving Invitational on Friday and Saturday.
The Rams beat Pittsburgh on Friday and Liberty on Saturday to finish the season 27-9, which gives them some hope for an NCAA tournament at-large bid.