WESTFIELD, Mass. – After a successful season that saw Westfield State run the table in MASCAC play, the Owls succumbed to top-seeded and host Clarkson University in the opening round of the NCAA Division III women's volleyball championship in Potsdam, N.Y.
Westfield fell 25-14, 25-6, and 25-13.
In the opening set, the two teams battled back and forth in the early stages before the Golden Knights took control late en route to a 25-14 win.
The Owls were tied 3-3 in the second set, but the Golden Knights then rattled off 18 straight points to seize control of the match.
Trailing 15-4 in the third game, the Owls showed their trademark resilience with a 7-2 rally, fueled by three straight Shawna Crowley (Billerica, Mass.) kills that forced a Clarkson timeout at 17-11.
A kill from 6-foot-2 middle hitter Rachel Reusch (Buffalo, NY) and two from Kristen Werdine (Tampa, Fla.) pushed the Knights lead back to 20-11 and prompted an Owls' timeout.
Finally, leading 24-13, Clarkson's Ocean Bryan powered a kill into an empty area of the court to seal the match win for the Knights.
Westfield struggled to overcome oversized and athletic Clarkson squad, which included six players between 6-feet and 6-foot-3 on the roster who rotated on the front line, and consistently challenging the Owls attacks.
Sophomore Shawna Crowley led Westfield with 11 kills. Senior Brianna Starkey (Rockland, Mass.) was next for the Owls with three. She caps a four-year career with 924 kills, good for fifth all-time at Westfield State.
Westfield senior libero Lizzie Taylor (Medfield, Mass.) finished her fine collegiate career with 18 digs, giving her 2,290 in her career, a school record by more than 600 digs.
Maddie Bredehoeft (Centennial, Colo.) led Clarkson with 18 kills. Werdine added 10 and Reusch eight. Setter Isabelle Crow (Tipp City, Ohio) finished with 47 assists, and three players had more than 10 digs for the Knights.
The Owls finish the campaign with a 14-17 overall record. Westfield was making it' fifth NCAA Tournament appearance, all since 2009, and the first since 2013. Westfield also fell at Clarkson in the 2013 tournament appearance.
Clarkson, 26-5, advances to tomorrow's regional semifinal to face Wellesley, a 3-0 winner over Brockport (NY) today. The Golden Knights entered as the region's top seed and were receiving votes in the latest AVCA top 25 poll.