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Potomac State volleyball punches ticket to national tournament

Reprinted with permission from The Cumberland Times-News.

WVU Potomac State College 2021 volleyball team

Potomac State volleyball is going back to the national tournament as the Catamounts defeated Raritan Valley in four sets on Friday evening to win the NJCAA Division II East District championship. Front row, left to right, are Brooke Slaubaugh, Caitlyn Nine, Alayzia Ward, Lauren Whiteman and Hannah Gordon. Middle row, left to right, Kylie McGuire, Kennedy Koelker, Ashley Phillips, Chloe Puffinburger, Taylor VanMeter, Macie Miller and Nicola Ganoe. Back row, left to right, assistant coach Mary Slider and head coach Martha Ganoe.

SCRANTON, Pa. — WVU Potomac State College volleyball is firing on all cylinders at the just right time. The Catamounts overcame a defeat in the first set to win the next three and defeat Raritan Valley to win the NJCAA Division II East District championship, sending Potomac State to the national tournament for the first time since the school made back-to-back appearances in 2016 and 2017.

The Catamounts had lost just one set in 10 games since falling to WVU Tech on March 13. PSC got an automatic bid to the district final, while Raritan Valley swept Erie, 25-12, 25-18 and 25-23, in the semifinals. Against the Catamounts, Raritan Valley took the first set, 25-23, before PSC won the next three 25-13, 25-19 and 25-14.

“Nerves played a huge part in the first-set loss,” said Potomac State head coach Martha Ganoe. “We were making mistakes that I had not seen since the beginning of the season. However, once the girls settled down it was full steam ahead. We were having difficulty at the net trying to stop their big hitter and balls were bouncing off our block making it difficult to defend. They were also abusing us down the line.

“I decided to make a change in the second set and put more offense, speed and ball control on the court. Hannah Gordon and Kennedy Koelker did an excellent job giving us the much-needed spark on defense and speed to get to the line on defense. I moved (Nicola) Ganoe into the middle blocker position and put (Taylor) VanMeter on the right to help boost our offense. VanMeter did a nice job of contributing on offense and Ganoe made several net saves to help keep the ball alive giving us another opportunity to defend.”

Many Potomac State players set season highs, including Alayzia Ward who put in perhaps her best performance of the season with season highs in kills (24) and digs (15).

Kylie McGuire joined Ward in the double-double department with season highs in digs with 20 and kills with 16.

Taylor VanMeter fell just shy of a double-double with 10 digs and seven kills, Chloe Puffinburger added a season-high 58 assists with eight digs, and Macie Miller tacked on 15 kills.

Lauren Whiteman put in an all-around defensive performance with a season-high 27 digs.

The Cats were aided by numerous contributors off the bench, with Gordon getting six digs in the second set and Koelker five digs in the third set.

Ashley Phillips used her short serve to disrupt the Raritan offense, while Caitlyn Nine had two late aces in the third set to extend Potomac State’s lead. Nicola Ganoe and Brooke Slaubaugh had two blocks apiece.

“This has been a great group of athletes to work with,” Martha Ganoe said. “They understand their roles and have really bought in to what they are able to contribute. It’s not always the ones with the big stat numbers on paper that make the most impact. Ashley Phillips accepted what she needed to contribute. She went in (Friday) for one rotation as a serving specialist. She was a huge factor in our win, allowing us to score in that rotation. Her serve generated free balls from the other team, creating an opportunity that allowed us to get the ball to our hitters so they could put the ball away.

“Nicola and Taylor are often huge silent contributors every game with their ability to step in and make a good set when the setter digs or passes the ball. Brooke Slaubaugh and Nicola Ganoe are not huge offensive contributors, but they bring the much needed defense at the net. Getting touches on balls, blocking and making saves at the net are just a few of the little things that are not often recognized.”

The Catamounts move to 14-1 and will play in the national tournament against a to-be-determined opponent. This year’s tournament, played at Alliant Energy Powerhouse Arena in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, will be played April 13-15.