ST. PAUL, Minn. – Cornell's 28-win volleyball season ended suddenly in three sets to sixth-ranked St. Benedict in an NCAA Division III Regional Quarterfinal Thursday afternoon at Schoenecker Arena.
The 20th-ranked Rams saw an impressive 16-match winning streak snapped – 25-16, 25-16, 25-17 – against the talented Blazers, a 2012 regional finalist who improved to 16-0 against nonconference foes. Cornell was swept for the first time in 45 matches.
Coach Jeff Meeker's team wrapped up a banner-filled campaign at 28-4, one win shy of the school record. The two-time defending Midwest Conference champions finished 89-17 in sets played.
Thursday marked the season's third loss against a nationally-ranked Top 10 opponent. The Rams had won 26 of 27 matches entering their third consecutive trip to nationals.
St. Benedict (27-3) moves on to Friday's regional semifinal to face the winner of Wartburg (25-11) and 19th-ranked UW-Stevens Point (31-4).
The Rams, who registered 24 sweeps on the year, were held to a season-low .034 attack percentage with 27 kills and 23 errors. St. Benedict hit .246 with 39 kills and only 11 errors.
Cornell outside hitter Kathleen O'Connor concluded an incredible career with a match-high 11 kills and 13 digs. It was the 17th double-double for the reigning three-time conference Player of the Year.
Junior Taylor Dicus hit .200 with eight kills. Libero Kylea Weber led all players with 18 digs. Freshman Katherine Devlin dished 12 assists, and Kelsey Gaillot nine.
Jessica Noble, Gaillot and Weber each had one ace for the Rams, who committed six service errors.
The Rams took a brief 2-0 lead in the opening set on a Gaillot ace, following by a St. Benedict attack error. The Blazers responded with a 7-1 run to take control. Cornell couldn't get closer than 8-6.
Cornell build a 4-1 advantage in the second set. The Blazers tied it at 5-5 and never trailed the rest of the day. The Rams rallied behind consecutive kills from O'Connor to pull within 18-16. St. Benedict closed it out on a 7-0 run.
St Benedict opened a 5-2 lead in the third set and played out in front the rest of the way. Cornell got within 13-11, but the Blazers countered with a 6-1 spurt and never looked back.
Lexi Alm paced the Blazers with 10 kills and 12 digs. Mary Franz added nine kills and hit .562. Taya Kockelman finished with 36 assists.