SKYLINE FINALS PREVIEW: #2 Mariners Host #4 Mount St. Vincent Saturday Night With A Trip To The NCAA Tournament On The Line

SKYLINE FINALS PREVIEW: #2 Mariners Host #4 Mount St. Vincent Saturday Night With A Trip To The NCAA Tournament On The Line

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KINGS POINT, N.Y. (Nov. 3, 2017) – The #2 seed U.S. Merchant Marine Academy women's volleyball team will host the Skyline Conference Championship Match against #4 seed Mount St. Vincent tomorrow, Saturday, Nov. 4, at 7 p.m. at Liebertz Gymnasium. At stake is the Skyline Conference's automatic bid into the field of 64 at the NCAA Tournament.

We've Been Here Before
This is the second-straight season that the Mariners will host the Skyline Finals, as they were the #2-seed hosting #1 Farmingdale State in 2016 due to a gym renovation at the Rams' facility. FSC defeated USMMA in straight sets in the championship match last year. 

Volleyball History In The Skyline Tourney
The 2017 season is USMMA women's volleyball's 37th year and it's the seventh time the program has qualified for the conference tournament. The Mariners have won five Skyline Conference Championships in 1996 and 1998 and then three-straight from 1999-2001. 

Saturday's contest will mark the fourth postseason match under second-year head coach Tim Gaiser. He has guided the Mariners back to the conference title match in consecutive seasons for the first time since Jim Hettenbach and Jamie Strotmeyer did it from 1999-2001. 

How They Got Here
The Mariners concluded the 2017 Skyline Conference regular season in a three-way tie for second place with St. Joseph's-Long Island and Mount St. Vincent. Due to the third tie-breaker of sets won, Merchant Marine earned the #2 seed and a first round bye, while St. Joseph's-L.I. was the #3 seed and Mount St. Vincent was the #4 seed. 

Merchant Marine finished the regular season with an 8-2 mark in Skyline play. The Marines have compiled an overall record of 16-7 record overall this season and enter this Finals matchup riding a four-match winning streak. USMMA defeated St. Joseph's of Long Island in straight sets at home on Thursday night in the Skyline Semifinals to reach the Finals. 

The Dolphins also finished the regular season with an 8-2 record in conference action and boast an 18-13 overall record on the season under first-year head coach Jonathan Welsh. Mount St. Vincent defeated #5 seed Mount St. Mary, 3-0 in first round action on Tuesday night and then upset #1 seed Farmingdale State in a five-set thriller on Thursday night. 

Last Time They Met
These two teams played a mid-week conference match back on Sept. 28 in the Liebertz Gymnasium. Mount St. Vincent escaped Kings Point with a 3-1 victory in a very close match (25-23, 23-25, 25-15, 25-22). 

Senior Kayla Gleason (Sound Beach, N.Y.) recorded a career-high 21 kills with a .263 hitting percentage and five digs. Classmate Dominique Pope (Silver Spring, Md.) was one dig shy of a double-double with 13 kills and nine digs and sophomore setter Kyleigh Kappas (Parker, Colo.) contributed 41 assists and five digs. 

Junior Kate Lefler (Norman, Okla.) chipped in with 11 digs and senior Myckenzie Toler (Prunedale, Calif.) added seven from the back row, while classmate Tichina Carmon (Greenville, N.C.) had a match-high four blocks. 

For Mount St. Vincent, sophomore Tara Maloney led all players in the match with 22 kills, while also picking up a double-double with 13 digs. Senior Nicole Henderson dished out a team-best 37 assists and freshman libero Alexandra Rio had a match-high 21 digs. 

Players to Watch
For Merchant Marine, the attack goes through senior outside hitter Dominique Pope, who has posted three-straight 200-plus kill seasons and leads this squad with 255 kills, a .227 hitting percentage, and 53 service aces. Pope gets it done defensively on the court as well, as she has picked up a team-leading 222 digs. 

Junior outside hitter Kate Lefler is the second Mariner on this squad with 200-plus kills (237) and provides a dangerous one-two punch with Pope. Sophomore setter Kyleigh Kappas is the setter in the Skyline with 673 assists and the key to providing strong offensive sets for the Mariners. 

Up front, senior Tichina Carmon provides some much-need size and has made an impact in her only season playing at Kings Point with a team-high 54 blocks. Senior Kayla Gleason is a staple on the right side for this squad and is third on the team with 165 kills. 

For Mount St. Vincent, the 2016 Skyline Conference Rookie of the Year Tara Maloney is the conference leader in kills with 403 on the season. Sophomore Dez Brown in the Skyline leader with a .295 hitting percentage, but has been limited lately due to an injury. Three Dolphins rank in the top 10 in kills, as Brown is eighth in the league with 194 and senior Maria Leineweber is right behind in ninth with 193. 

Senior setter Nicole Henderson ranks third in the Skyline with 7.56 assists per set, while her 771 assists total are best in the league. 

Live Coverage
Live stats and a live video feed of Saturday's contest will be available! The live stats can be accessed by clicking here, while the live video stream of the game is accessible by following this link

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