Dec. 6, 2013
DURHAM, N.C. - History favors the patient. American decided it was finished waiting.
The Eagles (33-2) made history as the first Patriot League team to capture a victory in the NCAA Volleyball Tournament with a 3-0 win over Georgia (22-10) in Friday's first-round match at Cameron Indoor Stadium on the campus of Duke University. American won by set scores of 25-21, 25-13 and 25-11.
"It’s a great feeling to finally win a match, but there’s a lot left to go here," American head coach Barry Goldberg said during the post-match press conference. "We’re just taking it as every weekend is a semifinal and a finals like last weekend was to win the Patriot League."
American will square off with No. 16 seed and 14th-ranked Duke on Saturday at 6 p.m. The ACC Champion Blue Devils were four-set winners over the College of Charleston on Friday night.
The victory snapped an 0-for-17 drought for the Patriot League Champion at the NCAA Tournament.
The Eagles, who also earned their first NCAA Tournament win in program history, orchestrated a balanced attack with four players scoring at least nine kills. Patriot League Tournament MVP Juliana Crum and Kelly McCaddin both logged 10 each, while Morgan Hendrix and Krystina Lindovska had nine apiece. McCaddin scored her 10 kills on 15 tries with just two errors to hit a match-high .533, while Hendrix didn't have any miscues on 17 swings to hit .529.
Monika Smidova, the Patriot League Setter and Scholar-Athlete of the Year, tallied 37 assists and 14 digs.
"She is what we need to be able to run the game plans we have," Goldberg said of Smidova. "I think a lot of teams would love to run the same game plan if they had a setter like her. She had a really good match.”
American went right to work with early leads of 4-0 and 12-7 in the first frame. Georgia put together a 3-0 mini run to come within 21-18 of the Eagles, but American regained control after a Bulldog attack error. The teams traded each of the next six points to give American the opening set.
A 7-0 American run to open the second set forced Georgia into a timeout. It turns out it was going all according to Goldberg and his coaching staff's plan.
"We wanted to see if we could run strings of points and get them to timeouts," Goldberg said. "That’s what we had talked about in the pregame."
Georgia was able to stem the run, but the Eagles kept on the pressure. A Lindovska kill gave American a 10-3 lead, and 3-0 Eagle run later in the set comprised of a Lindovska kill, a Crum ace and a Georgia error gave American a 20-10 lead. Leading 24-13, Smidova capped off the set for American with a kill to give it a 2-0 lead.
The Bulldogs secured their only lead of the match by taking the first point of the third frame, but it was all American after that. AU rattled off the next six points and used a 4-0 run to take a 12-5 advantage, forcing Georgia into another timeout. The Bulldogs were forced to take another stoppage down 17-6 after American netted five of the next six points. Another 3-0 run, paced by two Crum kills, gave the Eagles a 20-7 advantage.
Finally, with a 24-10 lead, McCaddin picked up her 10th kill to clinch American the historic victory.
"We’re happy to get through with the first tournament win here, but the team is playing at a level that wins a first round," Goldberg said. "I think that’s why we’re in the place we are right now. We’re playing better. We’re really just focusing on how to play the game and get better at playing the game.
"It’ll be a test tomorrow as well.”