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Clarkson volleyball heads to NCAA Division III elite eight match


A resilient Clarkson University volleyball team will take the floor at 12:30 p.m. today to face Minnesota’s University of St. Thomas in an NCAA Division III quarterfinal match at Hope College in Holland, Mich.

Clarkson (31-6 overall) has not had an easy journey to the national finals.

The Golden Knights have trailed in each of their past five matches, including in each match last weekend when they hosted an NCAA regional.

“There is something special about this team,” Clarkson coach Johan Dulfer said. “With them it’s that they refuse to quit. There is this sense of confidence they have. When they lose a couple points, or the other team goes on a streak, we know we can come back. We have this thing in timeouts where I talk about trust, that the other team is on a run now, but our time will come. Until then we just battle tight and hang in there and at some point we’ll overtake them.”

Clarkson dropped the opening game to Nazareth last weekend in its first NCAA game, then won the next three to advance.

The following day, the Golden Knights repeated the same thing against Middlebury and then fell behind two games to one in the regional final against SUNY New Paltz at Clarkson before rallying for the win.

“I think it shows that we have a lot of heart and we put everything on the line and that when we are behind we don’t get down on ourselves,” Clarkson junior Erika Chin said. “We tend to fight harder whenever we are behind. I think it’s a great aspect to this team that we don’t give up.”

Two of Clarkson’s six losses during the season were to Liberty League regular-season champion Skidmore. But the Golden Knights beat Skidmore in four games in the Liberty League championship on Nov. 3, earning the right to host last weekend’s regional.

“It was incredible,” freshman Victoria Kirkemo said. “We wanted to have such a great game for our crowd. It was unbelievable that we could win. There are no words to describe it.”

The success has even turned the players on the team into celebrities on campus. Kirkemo joked that they sort of felt like hockey players.

Clarkson’s reward for last weekend is another challenging match today against St. Thomas, which is located in St. Paul, Minn.

The Tommie’s are 37-1 this season with their only loss coming on Sept. 7 in Atlanta against Emory University.

“Year in and year out they are among the top teams in the country,” Dulfer said. “They turn recruits away. Recruiting for us works a little differently. They are in an area where volleyball is at a super-high level. They are in a metropolitan area, so that makes it easier. At the same time, I’d put (Clarkson’s) kids up against anybody at any time. We are definitely the underdog going in. They don’t know too much about us. We probably know more about them than they know about us.”

Aishvina Arasu leads Clarkson with 398 kills and Kirkemo has 390. Adrienne Walker ranks third on the team with 258. Lani Durio leads the team with 893 assists and Chin leads with 605 digs.

“We’re not just going to lie down,” Chin said. “We’re not here for the gimmicks. We’re here to play and to have fun. We’re all very excited. It’s going to be a great (match).”

Said Kirkemo, “We always set the bar really high for ourselves. I think most teams will underestimate us in the tournament. I think that gives us an advantage. I think we expect more from our team than other teams expect from us.”

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