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Moments from 2017-18 Season: Records, milestones a-plenty during Niagara volleyball’s tremendous season


celebrationNIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. -- Several records and milestones were accomplished during the 2018 volleyball season. Buoyed by a core of five seniors - Alexis GrayMeghan HigleyRylee HuntMadison May and Nicole Matheis – the Purple Eagles finished their 2018 campaign as one of the most successful seasons in program history.

NU challenged itself with a difficult non-conference schedule, which has become a staple of the program, with tournaments at Syracuse and Denver. After going 1-5 in those two tournaments, the Purple Eagles rolled to three straight victories to claim the Hartford Invitational for their first in-season tournament title since 2009.

Niagara rode the momentum from claiming the tournament title by opening its conference slate with five straight wins. Niagara's eight-match winning streak – its longest since 2011 – was snapped in a five-set thriller to Fairfield.

Through 11 MAAC matches, the Purple Eagles went 9-2 for their best conference record since 2011. Niagara clinched a first-round bye with a four-set win at Marist, to sweep the Red Foxes for the first time since 2012, on Nov. 5 to improve to 13-3 in MAAC play. Niagara concluded the regular season winning four of its last five matches and entered the MAAC Tournament as the No. 2 seed.

The Purple Eagles' quest for a fourth MAAC Tournament title ended with a defeat to the Iona Gaels in the semifinals.

Niagara finished the season with an 18-10 record, including going 14-4 in the MAAC. The 18 wins and .642 win percentage are fourth-best in program history, while the 14 conference wins are tied for third most in program history. The Purple Eagles ranked 20th in the NCAA in digs per set (17.5) and 24th in attacks per set (38.4). Niagara was also second in the MAAC in assists per set (11.2), kills per set (11.9), and opponent hitting percentage (.169).

Several Purple Eagles collected individual accolades and set program records.

Five Purple Eagles – Rylee HuntDraik BanksNicole MatheisGrace Hetterscheidt and Jaycie Roberts – were named to All-MAAC teams.

Rylee Hunt was named MAAC Libero of the Year for the third time in her career, earned All-MAAC First Team honors and was named to the MAAC All-Tournament Team. Sophomore middle blocker Draik Banks joined Hunt on the All-MAAC First Team. Senior outside hitter Nicole Matheis was named to the All-MAAC Second Team. A pair of freshmen, middle blocker Grace Hetterscheidt and outside hitter/defensive specialist Jaycie Roberts, were selected to the MAAC All-Rookie Team.

Rylee Hunt finished her career with 2,311 digs for second most in program history. Her 6.17 digs per set for the season are the second most in MAAC history, and her 648 digs are second most in program history.
Nicole Matheis concluded her career fifth in kills (1,238), second in attacks (4,214), seventh in digs (1,289), and third in aces (140). Alexis Gray leaves Niagara as the career leader in aces (164) and is second all-time in assists (3,383).

Rylee HuntNicole MatheisMadison May and Emillie Wright were named to the MAAC All-Academic Team and were joined by Molly CargesSarah DobinsonMeghan HigleyCameron Maris, and Jaycie Roberts on the MAAC Academic Honor Roll.

The volleyball team's second place finish in the MAAC was the highest of any Niagara athletic program during the 2017-18 season and the volleyball team won the "Team of the Year" award at the 2018 Purple Eagle Awards Show.

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