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Clarkson women’s volleyball team earns repeat trip to NCAA quarterfinals

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POTSDAM — Clarkson University volleyball coach Johan Dulfer was born in the country of Holland and he’ll be heading to Holland this coming weekend — Holland, Mich., that is — after his Knights defeated SUNY New Paltz in four sets on Sunday to win the NCAA Division III Potsdam Regional.

Clarkson (36-6) earned a return trip to Hope College as the remaining eight teams in the country will play in the single-elimination event this Thursday through Saturday to determine the NCAA champion.

The Hawks, who were defeated by Clarkson in five sets in last year’s regional final, prevailed 27-25 in game one before Clarkson roared back with wins of 27-25, 25-18, 25-15, led by Regional MVP Xiao Liang. She finished with 16 kills as did teammate Victoria Kirkemo.

“I joked with my wife that, because of where I was born, it was almost meant to be that we’re going back to Holland,” Dulfer said. “We lost out there (in the quarterfinals) last year, but the experience from last year will help us a lot this coming weekend. We’re not satisfied yet.”

Another person born outside of the United States, Liang, who hails from Tianjin, China, followed up Saturday’s 15-kill performance against New York University with 16 more kills on Sunday.

“I never check the stats, I don’t care how many I kill, I just want to play volleyball and have fun with my teammates,” Liang said. “Part of volleyball is that when things get difficult, like in game one today, you just try and come back and that’s really exciting.”

SUNY New Paltz (34-7) played incredible defense to make each game close.

“When you get down 1-0, you have to change your mentality, to see what’s working for you and not working for you and make the adjustments,” Kirkemo said after her team recorded its 19th straight victory and moved to 29-0 versus New York state teams. “New Paltz is scrappy and they play tough.”

Clarkson had a near double-digit lead in the first set, but the resilient Hawks used a solid defensive effort to end Clarkson’s bid. SUNY New Paltz trailed 24-21, but kills from Becca Borquist and Alex Bizub helped tie the match at 24-24. Capitalizing on eight Clarkson service errors in the first set, the Hawks came away with a 27-25 victory despite not holding a lead until the 26th point of the set.

In game two, the Knights again jumped out to an early lead, but SUNY New Paltz denied Clarkson with several digs in the back row. Clarkson regained the lead on an ace from Kirkemko, but SUNY New Paltz rallied to a 24-24 tie before a kill by Liang. A hitting error allowed Clarkson to gain a 1-1 deadlock.

In game three, with the score tied at 11-11, Clarkson scored seven of the next 10 points with three kills by Liang, and the Knights went on to score five of the final six points. In the fourth set, Clarkson hitters created a 12-3 run to make it 23-12 and the Knights finished off the match from there.

Lani Durio ran Clarkson’s offense with 52 assists, with three kills and four service aces. Erika Chin amassed 33 digs, including 31 in the first three sets. Adrienne Walker generated 11 kills with just one error in 21 attempts. Aishvina Arasu added 10 kills and Kirstie Shurie tallied 13 digs.

Borquist contributed 17 kills and 14 digs, while Katy Herbst chipped in 11 kills and 12 digs.

Said Dulfer: “Xiao and Victoria had a lot of kills against an opponent, which puts up a good block and is very good defensively. When we got down today, we had three-four-five players who stepped up. It’s how we got out of it. I can’t explain it, it’s something this team has.”

New Paltz’s Becca Borquist contributed 17 kills and 14 digs while Katy Herbst added in 11 kills and 12 digs. Carrie Hack led the defensive effort for the Hawks with 24 digs and Marissa King had 39 assists.

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