MOUNT VERNON – Cornell's volleyball team celebrated a third consecutive conference tournament title with the home fans late Saturday afternoon in the Small Multi-Sport Center.
The top-seeded and 20th-ranked Rams were sharp from the start and powered past third-seeded St. Norbert – 25-17, 25-14, 25-19 – in the championship match of the Midwest Conference Tournament.
Cornell (28-3) secured a spot in the NCAA Division III Tournament, which begins with regional play Nov. 14-16. NCAA pairings will be announced at 10 a.m. (Central Time) Monday, Nov. 11, at www.ncaa.com/championships.
The Rams claimed their fourth MWC volleyball crown, also winning it in 2012, 1988 and 1983. Coach Jeff Meeker's squad heads back to nationals for the third straight year, after taking the Iowa Conference Tournament title in 2011 and the MWC last season.
Cornell punched an NCAA automatic berth against the Green Knights (16-16) for the second year in a row. The Rams needed only 1 hour, 1 minute to sew up this one in recording their 16th consecutive victory, 15th straight at home.
The Rams' record-setting season saw another mark go down Saturday. Junior libero Kylea Weber became the program's all-time leader in digs with 16 tallies against St. Norbert. The Mount Vernon native raised her career total to 1,830, breaking the previous mark of 1,816 held by Amber Hein (2004-07).
Weber is the third Ram this fall to break a major career record. Kathleen O'Connor set the program's all-time mark for kills, while Taylor Dicus established a new standard for total blocks.
O'Connor's mark is at 1,700-plus and counting after smashing a match-high 15 kills. Dicus hit .435 with 12 kills and three blocks. Katie Sickelka had six kills, while Jessica Noble and Mariah Brandly added five apiece.
Kelsey Gaillot distributed 22 assists, and Katherine Devlin 17. Noble served three of the team's four aces. Sickelka accounted for four blocks.
Cornell's 24th consecutive MWC victory (tournament included) was never seriously in doubt. Gaillot got the Rams going with five straight service points to start the match. A Noble ace made it 9-1, and Cornell cruised from there.
St. Norbert was held to a -.091 attack percentage in the second set, which saw Sickelka go off for five kills on seven swings. O'Connor ended that one with an ace.
The teams were even at 12-12 in the third set before Gaillot delivered six unanswered points from the service line. A Brandly kill made it 24-18 and brought the fans to their feet. One point later, Brandly planted another spike to finish off the match.