WVU sweeps Syracuse 3-0, advances to NIVC semifinals

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MORGANTOWN, W.VA (WDTV) - Highlights from West Virginia's 3-0 win over Syracuse in the NIVC quarterfinals.

(WVU release):
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (Dec. 4, 2017) – Recording its fifth straight win and fourth sweep in five matches, the West Virginia University volleyball team advanced to the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC) Semifinals with a commanding 3-0 victory over Syracuse on Monday evening inside the WVU Coliseum. The Mountaineers (21-12) took the victory in set scores of 25-22, 25-22 and 25-18 over the Orange (22-14).

West Virginia will face Ole Miss in the NIVC Semifinal, which is set for Dec. 8. Friday’s match time and location has yet to be determined. The Championship match is slated for Dec. 12, hosted at one of the two remaining schools, with a live broadcast available through WatchESPN and the ESPN app.

The Mountaineers have won 21 matches in a season for the first time since a 26-11 campaign in 1991, the only time before 2017 that the Mountaineers made the postseason. With the 21 wins this year, third-year coach Reed Sunahara has earned his highest win total as head coach of the Mountaineers.

“I’m proud of our girls tonight. They played hard,” Sunahara said. “We weren’t perfect, but I like the way we persevered, especially in the first set. They are starting to finish strong, and I’m looking forward to Friday’s match vs. Ole Miss.”

Sophomore outside hitter Payton Caffrey led the Mountaineers for the fourth straight match, hitting .250 with 19 kills on 48 swings. Sophomore right side hitter Natania Levak had eight kills, while senior middle blocker Mia Swanegan added seven to hit .316. Senior outside hitter Morgan Montgomery and freshman middle blocker Briana Lynch also notched six kills apiece.

Sophomore setter Erin Slinde dished out 24 assists, splitting time with senior Emma Anderson, who registered 13 on the evening. Freshman defensive specialist Lindsay Proctor led the defense with 14 digs, followed by senior libero Gianna Gotterba with 11.

Caffrey also added a trio of aces for the Mountaineers, while Swanegan notched a pair of blocking assists.

West Virginia finished the match hitting .205 with 49 kills on 132 swings and four team blocks. Syracuse hit .151 with 33 kills and nine team blocks.

After playing to 11 ties throughout the course of set one, West Virginia finished the frame scoring seven straight points for the 25-22 win over Syracuse. With the match tied at 15-all, the Orange notched three in a row, capitalizing on back-to-back attacking errors from the Mountaineers, for the 18-15 advantage. A Caffrey kill halted Syracuse’s run, but the Orange used another 3-0 scoring streak to push its lead to five at 21-16. The Mountaineers fought their way back into the set, though, registering a pair of kills to cut their deficit to three, down 21-18. Syracuse used a timeout to regroup, but the Mountaineers came out of the stoppage firing on all cylinders, finishing with a 7-0 scoring run of their own for the 1-0 match advantage.

“In the first set, we had tons of opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on, and that’s why we were in that deficit,” Sunahara said. “We didn’t take care of the ball. We weren’t making plays. She’s [Payton Caffrey] been our go-to person all year. If she doesn’t go off, we don’t win that set, and the whole complexion of the match changes. I’m glad she did. She’s been really good the last six or seven matches for us.”

Both squads exchanged points early on in set two, as a Caffrey kill tied the frame at 11-11. The Orange then took a 13-11 lead following a kill from Kendra Lukacs and a WVU attacking error, but the Mountaineers scored six of the next seven points for the 17-14 advantage and never looked back. Syracuse used a timeout, down three, but another kill from Caffrey extended the Mountaineers lead to four at 22-18. A pair of Mountaineer miscues helped cut the Orange’s deficit to two at 22-20. However, a trio of kills from West Virginia, including two from Caffrey, ended the frame in favor of the Mountaineers, 25-22, for the 2-0 match lead.

WVU got off to a rocky start in the third set, falling behind 11-7 after a 4-0 Syracuse run. It didn’t take long for the Mountaineers to regain the lead, though, as the squad used a 4-0 run of its own to tie the match at 14-14. West Virginia then used a Syracuse attacking error and an ace from Gotterba to capture the two-point advantage at 16-14. Syracuse trimmed its deficit to one down the stretch at 18-17, but the Mountaineers finished strong once again, collecting the last seven of eight points to claim the 25-18 victory for the 3-0 win.

With today’s win, West Virginia pushes its lead over Syracuse to 16-12 in the all-time series.

Of note, West Virginia owns a 10-5 mark inside the WVU Coliseum this season and is 208-229 at home all-time.