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Canisius volleyball advances to first-ever MAAC Championship match

CANISIUS COLLEGE ATHLETICS

Postgame Celebration after MAAC Semifinal
Game Recap
The Canisius volleyball team was able to do what no Golden Griffin squad has ever done, advancing to its first-ever MAAC Championship match with a 3-1 victory over third-seeded Rider Friday night in semifinal action.
 
The win sets the second-seeded Griffs up against top-seeded Iona tomorrow afternoon after the Gaels swept Fairfield in the first semifinal contest.
 
Canisius won the match by scores of 25-13, 25-19, 24-26, 25-21 to improve to 17-11 overall. The Broncs fell to 19-10 overall with the loss.
 
Canisius junior Leah Simmons led the Griffs with 17 kills, while senior Sara Wesley followed Simmons with 13 kills, adding on a team-best five block assists. JuniorGabrielle Darnaby also notched ten kills with a .292 hitting percentage. Freshman Melina Woods tallied eight kills and a service ace. Junior Cassidy Ceriani recorded 48 assists to go with nine digs and four kills. Senior Sofia Lopez Acosta had a career-high 32 digs, as the libero also notched six assists and a service ace. Racking up 10 digs, freshman Ashley Kekeisen tacked on a service ace in the winning effort.
 
For Rider, Hailey Riede posted 14 kills to lead the team. Teammate Savannah Logan put up a double-double, tallying 12 kills and 11 digs. Libero Rachelle Runyon led the Stags with 23 digs, while Anilee Sher had 36 assists.
 
In the opening set, the Griffs hit at a .355 percentage and held Rider to a .032 clip, as Simmons pounded four kills on the way to a 25-13 Canisius victory.
 
The second set saw the Blue and Gold lose freshman Camila Vazquez to injury, but the Griffs kept up the attack in part due the defensive effort of Lopez Acosta's eight digs in the frame. Pulling out the 25-19 win, Canisius once again kept Rider to a sub-.100 hitting percentage, holding the Broncs to a .071 clip. Rider answered back in the third set, as Logan knocked down six kills in the frame. Despite the Griffs pushing the set into extra points, the Broncs stayed alive with the 26-24 victory.
 
In the fourth set, Canisius fought back from an early 7-1 hole to tie it at 12-12. Taking a 20-18 lead that forced a Rider timeout, the Griffs never looked back and took the final set by a 25-21 score, clinching its spot in the final match of the MAAC Championship.
 
Head coach Lenika Vazquez's Postgame Comments
"I'm so proud of them. They've got a lot of grit, they've got a lot of heart, they've got a lot of passion, they just don't quit and that's how we did it today. We push every day in practice, and I tell them 'if a match is harder than practice then we have a problem'."
 
Game Notes
• Sunday's match was the 38th all-time meeting between these two MAAC schools, with Canisius leading the series by a 28-10 margin.
• The last time Canisius swept a regular season series from a team and won a postseason match against the same team was Quinnipiac and Saint Peter's in 2014.
• Simmons' 17 kills give her double-digit kills in 16 contests this season, including the last five matches. Wesley now has nine matches with 10-plus kills, while Darnaby has two.
• Lopez Acosta has now recorded 20-plus digs in 14 matches this season.
• Lopez Acosta's 32 digs Sunday helped the senior move into seventh in program history with 547 digs on the season.
• With 972 career digs, Lopez Acosta is two shy of tying Rachel Kline for 10th all-time in the program record books.
• Kekeisen has now recorded 10-or-more digs in nine contests during her rookie season.
• Ceriani has recorded 40-or-more assists ten times this season. The setter's 978 assists this season (eighth all-time) are 14 away from Janelle Davis' 992 in 2011 that sits 7th all-time.
• Ceriani's 2,667 career assists moves her into sole possession of fourth in program history, needing 27 more to match Streicher's 2,694 career helpers for third place.
 
Up Next
No. 2 Canisius will play tomorrow for the 2018 MAAC Volleyball Championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament against No. 1 Iona. The championship match is set for 3 p.m. and can be seen live on ESPN3.