Communication and tough play at the net boosted the women’s volleyball team to a fifth place finish at the New York State volleyball championships last weekend. The Yellowjackets beat SUNY Fredonia 3-1 on Saturday morning, were swept 0-3 by New York University that afternoon and finished with a 3-1 victory over rivals Rochester Institute of Technology on Sunday.

To add to the excitement, junior co-captain and setter Liz Loveless and freshman outside hitter Susan Johnson were named to the All-New York State Women’s Volleyball All-Star Team.

“This weekend was very competitive, an excellent test of our mental and physical strength as individuals and as a team,” senior outside hitter Stephanie Bristol said.

“I think we passed the test since we showed heart, drive and dedication out there for all three matches.”

The 30-26, 24-30, 30-18, 30-19 victory over RIT was especially sweet since UR had lost twice to the Tigers earlier this season.

“This was our redemption, the final exam – and we aced it because we didn’t give up,” Bristol said. “At the net we were blocking and staying strong with our hits and defensively we were moving and talking well.”

Head Coach Linda Downey agreed. “The win against RIT was a huge boost. We blocked well and dug up a lot of balls we sometimes let drop, she said.”

The win was a team effort – junior co-captain and middle back Kristin Vogt finished with 16 kills and eight blocks while Johnson had 19 kills and 19 digs. Sophomore middle back Kate Czarniak contributed with eight kills and two blocks and junior co-captain and Loveless held the offense together with 38 assists and 22 digs.

Johnson felt the RIT win was a result of hard work all season.

“We started to do a lot of things that we have been trying to improve on the entire season and played with great heart,” she said.

Playing with heart seemed to be the theme of the weekend. Despite the loss to NYU, the Yellowjackets felt that they left everything on the court.

“NYU is ranked ninth in the nation so you go in as big underdogs and work like heck to keep up with them,” Downey said.

The Violets won 30-18, 30-23, 30-18. Loveless had 25 assists and 19 digs, freshman setter Samantha Carr had 15 digs and Vogt added eight kills. Johnson finished with 18 kills and Czarniak had three blocks.

Bristol was happy with UR’s effort. “We definitely put up a fight, had some solid blocks at the net and kept the ball alive as much as we could,” Bristol said.

“We may not have won the match, but I think we stuck with it and knew we had done our best which is what matters most.”

Saturday morning, the Yellowjackets defeated SUNY Fredonia 30-28, 30-27, 30-21, 30-27. Against Fredonia, Loveless had 43 assists, Carr had 18 digs and Johnson added 18 kills and 21 digs. Vogt and Czarniak dominated at the net with eight blocks each. Vogt had 13 kills and Czarniak had six.

UR is now setting its sights on the UAA tournament this weekend at NYU. They will play Washington University in St. Louis, Carnegie Mellon University and University of Chicago on Friday. Saturday’s games will be determined by Friday’s outcome.

The team is looking forward to the competition and hopes to take at least two wins. “The competition is always really tough and the quality of play is going to be really high,” Johnson said. “If we can play like we did this weekend and continue to improve, we have the chance to do some really good things this weekend.”

Taylor can be reached at

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