North Adams, MA- Following Tuesday night's quarterfinal victory, the MCLA Volleyball program has advanced into the semifinal round of the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletics Conference (MASCAC) postseason tournament. Awaiting the Trailblazers are the top seeded Westfield State University Owls. That match is scheduled for first serve Thursday night at 7pm in the Woodward Center.
The Trailblazers (19-10) and Owls (12-16) hooked up back in early September with the Owls walking away with a 3-1 win over MCLA. The match marked the conference openers for both programs as each were still trying to find their footing in the early season. Westfield would go on to an undefeated season in conference play finishing up at 7-0. MCLA was 4-3 in the MASCAC during the regular season.
For the Trailblazers to advance to their first championship game since 2016, MCLA will rely on a trio of underclassmen to counter the Owls attack. MCLA has been led all season long by first year attacker Kelly Moczulski. She currently leads the MASCAC in total kills with 281 on the season. She also ranks first in Aces and sixth in Digs. Moczulski tallied 15 kills and 12 digs in the earlier matchup with the Owls.
Ahna Schlaefer and Reagan Scattergood have also come on late in the season for the Trailblazers. The duo combined for 15 kills in the matchup with Westfield. Scattergood ranks seventh in the MASCAC in kills while Schlaefer is 12th. Madison Jayne returned from injury on Tuesday night and recorded a career best 15 kills in the win over the Lancers as well. The balanced offensive attack for MCLA will be a key factor in Thursday's outcome.
Trailblazer setter Tessa Sestito did not play in the early season contest with Westfield, but has made her presence known. She ranks second, behind only Owl Ally Rega, in the conference in assists with 699. Sestito has eclipsed 40 assists twice this season, including a career best 44 in the quarterfinal win over Worcester State.
While MCLA poses a balanced offensive attack, the Owls are very similar. The duo of Brianna Starkey and Ashley Crowley rank fourth and fifth respectively in the MASCAC ranks. They have combined for 477 kills this season. In the win over MCLA, Starkey collected 14 kills. Crowley was held in check with only 4 kills on 25 attacks. Westfield's top player may very well be Lizzie Taylor. She currently leads the conference and Owl defense with 555 digs and is a force when serving as she has collected 57 aces this season. She recorded 28 digs in the win over MCLA.
Another player to watch in the matchup for Westfield is Hanna Simpkins. She tallied a season best 14 kills in the matchup with MCLA earlier this season. Her efforts could prove pivotal in regards to who advances to the finals.
The winner of the semifinals will advance to play the winner of #2 Framingham State and #3 Bridgewater State. The match will be hosted by the highest remaining seed.
Fans can tune in to www.mascac.tv to catch all the action from the Woodward Center tomorrow evening.