East Stroudsburg University Women’s Volleyball won a conference championship for the first time since 1987 by defeating the Shepherd University Rams 3-2 at Gannon University on Nov. 23. Set scores were 25-22, 16-25, 25-23, 22-25 and 15-8.
The first four sets were extremely competitive. The opening set was tied at 20 before ESU went on a 5-2 run to claim the first set.
The second set was knotted at 10 before Shepherd outscored ESU 10-1 to take a 20-11 lead. The Rams went on to win the second set 25-16.
ESU fell behind early in the third set. Shepherd led 19-10, but ESU freshman Rachel Cain helped the Warriors rally to a 23-23 tie. Then a kill by senior Sam Dunphy and an attack error by Shepherd gave the third set to ESU 25-23.
Shepherd would bounce back. The fourth set was competitive, but an emphatic kill down the middle of the court by Shepherd senior Peyton Lindblad got past seniors Sarah Smith and Jasmine Williams for the final point of the set. The fourth set belonged to the Rams 25-22.
The momentum seemed to be with Shepherd heading into the fifth and decisive set.
However, ESU built a 10-7 lead and won five out of the last six points in the match to close out the fifth set 15-8. The Warriors won their first championship in thirty-two years.
ESU Women’s Volleyball head coach Kevin Rodgers talked about the difference in the fifth set.
“We aced them a couple of times. We blocked them a couple of times. We just played cleaner than they did. We didn’t make any errors,” Rodgers said.
Smith led the team with 16 kills, 17 digs and seven blocks. Smith was named the MVP (Most Valuable Player) for her outstanding performance.
“What got us through was our determination and our fight and our willingness to not give up,” Smith said.
“Sarah was great. She is a great leader and does very well on the volleyball court. She is definitely well-deserved of the MVP of the PSAC Tournament,” Rodgers said.
Dunphy had 10 kills, and redshirt junior Trea-Sure Ketter had nine kills.
“We said no matter how far we’re down, we’re going to fight through it no matter what,” Ketter said.”We made that decision at the beginning of PSACs, and I’m glad that we kept that all the way through. I’m so proud of my team.”
Cain had an outstanding game. She had a team-high 44 assists to lead the Warriors.
Rodgers said that Cain was not a starter at the beginning of the season, but she got a chance to play and showed what she is capable of.
“Rachel has been consistent for us. She was a big reason why we came back in the third set against Shepherd. She was just phenomenal,” Rodgers said. “I have told her this. But without her, I don’t think we could have had as much success as we had this season.”
Sophomore Emily Meredith played outstanding defense and contributed with 24 digs for the Warriors.
Freshman Morgan Schoy and sophomore Clare Davison are reserves on the team, but they were actively supporting their teammates from the sideline.
“We make sure everyone is aware of how hyped we should be as a team,” Schoy said. “I think they can hear us from the bench really supporting them.”
“Our seniors really worked hard this year and really pushed everyone to the limit,” Davison said. “East Stroudsburg is back on top!”
This was the program’s fifth Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Championship,
The win gave ESU an automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Women’s Volleyball Tournament starting today. ESU (29-6, 16-3) will play Shepherd (28-6, 14-5) again in the first round of the national tournament at Wheeling University in Wheeling, W.Va. today at noon.
“We just have to play cleaner and make a few adjustments on the stuff that they beat us on,” Rodgers said. “Hopefully, the adjustments we make will help us win.”
Email Ronald at