BOSTON, Mass. - The fourth-seeded Simmons College women's volleyball team will hit the road to take on top-seed Johnson & Wales University in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Championship Tournament Semifinals at the Wildcat Center in Providence, R.I. at 7:00 p.m.
The Sharks defeated number five seed Lasell College in the quarterfinals, 3-1 (22-25, 26-24, 25-18, 25-22), on November 1 in Boston, while the Wildcats blanked number eight seed Suffolk University, 3-0 (25-12, 25-13, 25-12) on the same night.
The match marks the fourth time that Simmons and Johnson & Wales have met in the GNAC Tournament and the second time they have tangled in the semifinals. The Wildcats have won all three meetings.
The Sharks qualified for the GNAC Tournament for the sixth straight year and are making their sixth semifinals appearance overall, including fifth in the last six years.
The Sharks own a 12-11 record and have won eight of their last 10 matches. Simmons finished league play with an 8-3 mark to capture the fourth seed in the GNAC Tournament. Johnson & Wales is enjoying a storybook campaign, having won 31 straight matches to begin the season and has dropped just one set out of 94 on the season. JWU received 35 votes in the most recent American Volleyball Coaches of America Top 25 poll.
The Wildcats defeated the Sharks, 3-0 (25-13, 25-17, 25-21), in their meeting on September 28 in Providence. First year middle blocker Kate Walker (Oakland, Calif.) and sophomore middle hitter Emily Kalmink (Byron Center, Mich.) each spiked for 11 kills to lead the home team, while first year outside hitter Morgan Weeg (Goodyear, Ariz.) posted a double-double of 12 kiills and 10 digs to lead Simmons.
The Sharks have been one of the strongest offensive teams in the league, averaging 11.13 kills and 2.30 aces per set to stand third and fourth, respectively, among conference leaders, while owning a .167 hitting percentage as the fourth-most efficient team in the league. Johnson & Wales leads the nation with a .299 hitting mark and has held opponents to a paltry .039 hitting percentage to stand second among the nation's leaders.
Simmons is led by Weeg. The rookie has proven to be one of the best all-around players in the league, averaging 3.99 kills and 3.31 digs per set as the only player in the conference to average at least 3.9 kills and 3.3 digs per set. Her consistency has been key for the Sharks, posting double-digits in either kills or digs in all but three matches and registered 14 double-doubles on the year. She has also recorded a respectable .200 hitting percentage, while serving up 29 aces and getting up for 21 blocks. Weeg is joined at the net by senior middle blocker Abby Hart (Westfield, Mass.), who has been one of the most efficient hitters in the league with a .283 hitting mark to place sixth among league leaders. She also averages 2.58 kills per set for the second-most on the squad and her 0.59 blocks per set place her ninth among GNAC players.
Junior right side hitter Amber Peterson (Las Vegas, Nev.) joins Weeg, Hart, senior outside hitter Kat Guillotte (New Bedford, Mass.) and senior libero Alex Itasaka (Branford, Mass.) as the only players to players to have seen action in all 83 sets for Simmons. Peterson has swung for 1.64 kills per set, while firing 31 aces for the second-most on the team, while Guillotte has provided support on both sides of the net with 1.17 kills and 2.84 digs per frame to go with 37 aces. Itasaka has enjoyed an outstanding season as the team's libero with 5.19 digs per set to rank third in the conference and has improved her service game with a team-high 38 aces to rank 13th in the conference.
Weeg isn't the only newcomer to make an impact for the Sharks. Kenna McCarthy (Shelter Island, N.Y.) has stepped in as the team's primary setter and averaged just under nine assists per set for the fourth-most in the league. First year Carly Wanner-Hyde (Newington, Conn.) has been a solid back-row player for Simmons, seeing action in 77 sets, while filling in at setter and patrolling the service line.
First year outside hitter Maria Coniglio (Old Bethpage, N.Y.) ranks fourth among league leaders with 3.54 kills per set for the Wildcats and is fifth with a .305 hitting percentage. Kalmink has been one of the most efficient hitters in the nation with a .419 hitting mark to place third, while her 2.95 kills per set is good for eighth among conference players. Walker has been a lethal hitter as well with a staggering .450 hitting percentage to lead the nation and fuel 2.58 kills per set. Kalmink and Walker have both been intimidating forces at the net with Kalmink ranking fourth among Division III leaders with 1.31 rejections per set and Walker standing fourth in the GNAC with 0.71. First year Brylee Frank (Palm City, Fla.) has burst onto the scene as one of the best setters in the nation with 10.45 assists per frame to rank 11th among Division III leaders, while getting down for 2.60 digs and putting away 1.05 kills per set to go with 0.46 aces. First year libero Giana Esposito (Larkspur, Calif.) has gotten it done on both sides of the net with 4.52 digs to rank fourth in the GNAC and 0.57 aces per frame to rank fifth.