CHICAGO - Led by sophomore outside hitter Kayla Mullaney (Elmhurst, Ill./York Community) for the second straight match, the No. 4 seeded Saint Xavier University volleyball team picked up its first Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) Tournament crown in at least a decade defeating No. 2 seed Trinity Christian College (Ill.) in four sets at Memorial Gymnasium Saturday night in Palos Heights, Ill. The Cougars (23-13 overall) earned the victory by scores of 25-18, 25-27, 25-19 and 25-22 behind Mullaney‘s match-best 21 kills. With the win, SXU earns its first berth to the NAIA Volleyball National Championships since 2000 and will compete in opening round action starting next weekend. As the conference tournament runner-up, TCC also earns an automatic bid to the national tournament.
The Cougars came out on fire in the first set posting 19 kills and just two attack errors for an impressive .500 team attack percentage. SXU led by a point, 16-15, before a pair of kills and a block assist by junior middle blocker Kim Scudder (Elmhurst, Ill./York Community) pushed the lead to four, 19-15. Saint Xavier finished strong to claim the first set by seven points, 25-18. The second set was tight early on before SXU was able to take a 22-18 lead, which prompted a timeout by the Trolls. The stoppage changed the momentum as TCC closed out the set on a 9-3 run to even things up. The Cougars held narrow leads for a majority of the third set before finally pulling away late thanks to big kills by Mullaney and sophomore outside hitter Kelly Knudsen (Oak Lawn, Ill./Oak Lawn Community).
The deciding fourth set was more of the same as both teams kept it close through the first 18 points, but a late string of points pushed SXU to the victory, including an ace by Scudder to secure the match. SXU junior setter Jaclyn Major (Lockport, Ill./Lockport Township) controlled the offense finishing with 49 assists and 11 digs, while Knudsen posted 16 kills and 10 digs for the Cougars. Sophomore libero Christine Bowe (Downers Grove, Ill./Downers Grove South) scooped up a team-best 15 digs and Scudder tallied 13 kills and three block assists. The Trolls were led offensively by freshman outside hitter Kaitlin Feddema and senior middle hitter Sara Ooms, who posted 12 and 11 kills, respectively.
Saint Xavier (23-13 overall/7-4 CCAC) now advances to opening round play in the 2010 NAIA Volleyball National Championships, which begins next weekend. The Cougars will learn their seed, opponent and location for the opening round match when the final top 25 poll and list of national qualifiers are officially released tomorrow night by the NAIA national office in Kansas City, Mo.