Senior captain leads MMA volleyball team to conference championship

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Gillian O’Neil was named the 2016 Conference Tournament MVP. Photo by Monique Labbe

CASTINE—It was standing room only inside Smith Gymnasium Saturday, November 5, as the Maine Maritime Academy volleyball team defeated Colby-Sawyer College of New London, New Hampshire, for the North Atlantic Conference championship.

Hundreds of students and fans packed the stands to cheer on the Mariners, who clinched their first NAC championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Volleyball Tournament since 2010.

Rallying behind the cheers echoing in the gym, the Mariners jumped on the Chargers early in the first set, eventually going on to win 25-18 to take a 1-0 lead. Tess Clark (Spring, Texas) led her team with seven of her 14 kills in the first set, while Gillian O’Neil (Burbank, Calif.) contributed six of her 21 kills.

The Mariners cruised through the second set, winning 25-15, but the Chargers found their rhythm in the third, quieting the crowd with a commanding 25-17 win to send the match into a fourth set.

The fourth set proved to be the most dramatic one of the match, with several lead changes that resulted in a 23-23 tie as the Mariners held serve. Maine Maritime Academy tallied the next two points to take the 25-23 fourth set win and the 3-1 victory.

O’Neil was named the Tournament MVP, recording her 17th double-double of the season with 21 kills and 14 digs to go along with two aces. The senior was also named the NAC Player of the Year. Clark notched her 10th double-double, recording 23 digs and 14 kills, which earned her All-Tournament honors. Maria Perez (San Juan, Puerto Rico), the 2016 NAC Defensive Player of the Year, recorded 23 digs and six assists to be named to the All-Tournament squad.

The Mariners await their first Division III tournament opponent, which will be announced during the NCAA Volleyball Selection Show scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Monday, November 7. Live footage of the selection show will be streamed at portal.stretchinternet.com/mma.

The championship match marked the 10th straight conference championship appearance for the Mariners. The win was the fifth in program history, with four coming in consecutive years from 2007 to 2010. The Mariners have history on their side, as they have gone on to win every Division championship they have played in following a conference championship.

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