The UR volleyball team achieved two team goals at this weekend’s Eastern College Athletic Conference Upstate New York championships to win 25 matches in the season and the ECAC crown.

The team went into the ECAC championships feeling good about their fifth place finish at the University Athletic Association championships the previous weekend.

“The strength of the UAA is huge for team confidence,” head coach Linda Downey said. “It changes your attitude toward playing anybody, since your conference is filled with top-notch teams.”

The road to first place started with the semifinal match against Russell Sage. Between junior Sam Carr’s leadership, junior Susan Johnson’s power and seniors Kate Czarniak and Haley Massa’s blocking abilities, the Yellowjackets plowed over the Gators 30-18, 30-19 and 30-15.

In the win over the Gators, which was Downey’s 200th career win, Carr assisted on 35 Yellowjackets kills and dug out 25 of the Russell Sage attacks. Johnson dug out 22 and killed 14 and sophomore Jessica Sorrentino dug 20 and killed nine. Czarniak and junior Andrea Wagonseller had seven kills each.

The win over Russell Sage pitted the Yellowjackets against New Paltz for the title. In previous years, the Yellowjackets had lost in the finals or semifinals, but this year they stepped it up and came out on top of a strong team by scores of 30-28, 21-30, 30-22 and 30-15.

“We surprised New Paltz in the title match,” Downey said. “They were quick and athletic, but could not match our physical strength. We also refused to let balls drop that would have earlier in the season, which led to long, exciting rallies.”

Johnson racked up 23 kills and 17 digs in the title match. Czarniak, in her last match as one of the Yellowjackets, killed 17, and Massa, who was also playing her last match, killed 12 and blocked six. Sorrentino and Wagonseller dug out 38 and 34, respectively.

Carr notched 58 assists, 32 digs and the most valuable player of the tournament.

“Sam really got the job done this weekend,” Downey said. “She played great defense, ran the offense well and she really showed a lot of heart.”

Johnson also brought home honors. She was named second team All-UAA, meaning she is in the top 12 players of an incredibly talented conference, as well as being named an All-American. She totaled 619 kills, 650 digs, 38 blocks, 25 aces and five assists.

“The games went well this weekend,” Carr said. “We played the best that we have all season. We worked well together and passed great.”

Carr and Johnson will help lead the team into next year’s season, ending the 2005 season on a high note with the first place finish at the ECAC championships.

“Although we are losing our two senior middle hitters and the leadership from all three seniors, we can come together for next year’s season,” freshman Jessica Rasmussen said. “People have always been willing to do things in the interest of the team and we will definitely be able to step up in their absence.”

Winn can be reached at

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