Tartan volleyball crowned ECAC South champs

The Carnegie Mellon women’s volleyball team ended its fall season last week with an Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) South Championship title. The Tartans defeated Penn State–Altoona, New York University, and Johns Hopkins University en route to the Division III title.

The third-ranked Tartans began their championship bid Wednesday when they hosted sixth-ranked Penn State–Altoona in a quarterfinal match. Carnegie Mellon demolished the Lions 3–0 with scores of 30–21, 30–14, 30–23. The Lions ended their season with a 21–9 record overall.

Senior outside hitter Kate Stepp led the Tartans with 12 kills during the match. Sophomore middle hitter Jessica Brackin followed with 10, and junior middle hitter Chisom Amaechi added nine kills to the Tartan total. Brackin also contributed a career-high 13 blocks, eight of which were solo.

Sophomore setter Samantha Carter collected 43 assists, while first-year defensive specialist Cameron Griffin totaled 17 digs. Sophomore Cara Fatigati added nine digs to the Tartan total.

“ECACs were a fun way to end the season,” senior middle hitter Abbie Toney said. “We had really low-key practices all week, and the games were relatively no pressure.”
Carnegie Mellon hosted the semifinals Saturday, facing the seventh-ranked NYU Violets. The Violets upset the second seed, New Jersey City University, 3–1 to make it to the semifinal match. NYU’s championship run ended in the semifinals as Carnegie Mellon defeated the Violets 3–0 (30–19, 30–20, 30–22).

Carter had 31 assists and eight digs in the win. Griffin led the Tartans defensively with 20 digs, while Amaechi contributed seven blocks. Brackin accumulated nine kills, while first-year middle hitter Caroline Size added eight.

The Tartans faced the top-seeded Johns Hopkins Blue Jays in the championship match Sunday. The Blue Jays defeated Washington & Jefferson College in the other semifinal match 3–0 to advance to the championship. Johns Hopkins boasted a 25–5 season record going into the match, while the Tartans’ record stood at 22–15.

“I think we all felt we deserved to be the number-one seed, even though Johns Hopkins was. Their schedule didn’t compare to ours,” Toney said. “They had a great record, but they played really bad teams. Our record doesn’t look very good but if you look at the quality of the competition, you can see our coach matched us up against lots of great teams. Of our losses, the majority was to nationally or regionally ranked teams.”

The Tartans downed the Blue Jays in a well-fought, back-and-forth match. The Tartans won the first game 30–23, but the Blue Jays retaliated and took the second game 30–21. Carnegie Mellon took game three 30–22, and Johns Hopkins won game four 30–22.

The championship title came down to game five, which was won by the Tartans 15–13 after an attack error cost Johns Hopkins the game.

Brackin received the Most Valuable Player award for the championships. Brackin and Amaechi led the Tartan offense with 14 kills apiece. Stepp followed with nine, while Size added eight to the team total.

Carter logged 57 assists and 14 digs during the match. Griffin added 25 digs, while Stepp, Fatigati, and sophomore right side hitter Julie Ng each recorded nine digs.
The volleyball team ends the reason with a 23–15 record overall. The young team will graduate only two seniors: Stepp and Toney.

“Kate Stepp and I are the only seniors, but we both have positions to fill, so the spring season will be really important for the underclassmen,” Toney said. “During the season, practices are focused around a team dynamic and how to defend against our competition, but in the spring it’s a chance for everyone to work on their individual game.”