Nov. 15, 2012

PITTSBURGH, Pa.—Six teams left, all with the same goal – to represent the Atlantic 10 in the NCAA Tournament.

The 2012 A-10 Volleyball Championship begins Friday afternoon at Duquesne University’s A.J. Palumbo Center with six teams competing for the Atlantic 10 title that will be awarded Sunday on national television.

The quarterfinal matches begin at 4:30 pm Friday when the A-10’s two newest members, Butler and VCU square off. That match will be followed the second quarterfinal between host Duquesne and their in-state rival Temple.

VCU is seeded third behind the multi-talented A-10 Rookie of the Year Martina Samadan. The freshman leads the Rams in hitting percentage (.361) and is fifth nationally in blocks per set. Along with senior outside hitters Kristen Boyd and Anett Farkas, the Rams have a potent offensive attack and strong on-net defense. VCU used that to cruise to one of the best overall record nationally at 24-5. Only one of the Rams four losses came at the hands of a non-conference foe (South Florida), and they won 12 of their first 13 to start the year. VCU beat Butler this year 3-0.

Butler qualified for the A-10 Championship on the last day of the season, beating Saint Louis, 3-0 to slide into the up-for-grabs sixth spot. The Bulldogs have a number of offensive weapons, led by Sophomore Belle Obert (2.83 kills per set) and Maggie Harbison (2.82 kills per set). Claire Randich and Erica Stahl combine for a strong defense (1.19 and 1.53 blocks per set respectively). Butler finished the regular season by winning five straight and enters the tournament 17-11 overall and 7-7 in league play.

Host Duquesne is the fourth seed and will rely on All-Conference selections Allison Foschia and Arielle Love to carry the load. Foschia averaged 3.13 kills per set and along with libero Patti Abshire leads the Dukes in digs per set (3.96 for Abshire, 3.00 for Foschia). Love averages 2.89 kills per set and also hits at a .319 clip. Freshman setter Mary Henry’s 10.49 assists per game is among league leaders as well. Like VCU, Duquesne started the year strong, winning eight of their first nine and won their first four conference matchups, finishing the regular season 22-10 overall and 9-5 in the A-10. DU beat Temple, their quarterfinal opponent, 3-0 during the regular season. The Dukes are looking for their first-ever A-10 title.

Temple has won the Atlantic 10 Championship four times, but not since 2002. The Owls hope the play of Libero of the Year Chelsea Tupuola (5.30 digs per set) and All-Conference selection Gabriella Matautia (4.05 kills per set) can propel them back to the title. TU reeled of 12 wins in 14 matches through the end of non-conference play and into conference matches. This season has been a turnaround for the Owls, who improved by 10 wins over last season under the direction of second-year head coach Bakeer Ganes. Temple closed out the regular season with a 8-6 conference mark and at 18-10 overall.

The Duquesne-Temple winner advances to face top-seeded Dayton at 3:30 pm in Saturday’s semifinals. The Flyers are looking for their fourth straight A-10 title and their eighth overall. Led by Conference Player of Rachel Krabacher and Setter of the Year Samantha Selsky, the Flyers are ranked 12th in the AVCA Coaches poll and have won 15 straight matches. Selsky is 16th nationally in assist per set (11.53) and Krabacher is ninth nationally in kills per set (4.62) and 16th nationally in points per set (5.03). Megan Campbell, who also earned All-Conference honors, is eighth nationally in hitting percentage (.419) The Flyers were perfect in conference play, posting a 14-0 record. UD is 23-4 overall and opened the season with six straight wins, including a sweep of then No. 7 Illinois.

The VCU-Butler winner will play No. 2 Xavier at 6:00 pm in the second semifinal on Saturday. The Musketeers haven’t won the A-10 title since 2001, but have positioned themselves to have an opportunity to win in three of the last five years. XU has faced Dayton in the final in the last two years and also in the 2007 Championship. Xavier is Led by five All-Conference selections, the most of any school, including three-time (2009-11) Libero of the Year Stephanie Vorherr (4.89 digs per set). Sarah Brown leads the team in kills with 3.41 per set while Alex Smith hits at a blistering .382. The Musketeers won eight of the last nine, with the only loss coming in the regular season finale against Dayton. Temple was the only other A-10 team to beat XU this year. XU beat both potential semifinal opponents (Butler, VCU) in three sets.

The semifinal winners advance to the noon championship on Sunday. Sunday’s winner receives the Atlantic 10’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

There is no charge for admission to the three-day, single-elimination tournament to support those located in the northeast impacted by Hurricane Sandy. In addition, the quarterfinal and semifinal matches will be streamed live on Atlantic10.com and the championship final will air on national television on CBS Sports Network.