HAVERFORD, Pa. - The Haverford College volleyball team (22-8, 7-3 CC) is back in the postseason for the 17th time in the last 20 seasons, and begins the quest for a Centennial Conference Championship with a first-round rematch against rival Swarthmore (15-11, 6-4 CC) on Wednesday evening (7:30 p.m.) at Gooding '84 Arena.
An automatic bid to the NCAA tournament will be on the line this weekend in Baltimore as the winner of the Centennial Conference Opening Round contest will face off with top-seeded Johns Hopkins (1 p.m.) while the second-seeded Diplomats of Franklin & Marshall face off with the Green Terror of McDaniel in the second semifinal (3:30 p.m.).
In total, Haverford has hoisted the Centennial Conference championship trophy on four occasions, rising to the top of the conference in consecutive seasons from 2006 to 2009. Haverford also made the NCAA tournament as an at-large selection in 2014.
Haverford and Swarthmore met in the regular season finale on Saturday, with the Fords coming away with a dramatic 3-1 victory on Senior Day to set up the anticipated rematch on Wednesday evening. Sophomore Dina Kosyagin (Las Vegas, Nev.) notched 20 kills in the triumph, as Haverford fed off the energy of a large partisan crowd to come away with a win and a vital Hood Trophy point.
In total, Haverford owns a 35-23 advantage against the Garnet. The two sides have met in the Centennial Conference tournament on five occasions, with the last meeting coming in Haverford's last postseason trip in 2016. The Fords hold a 3-2 edge in postseason meetings, and prevailed in four sets during a 2011 first-round clash in Swarthmore. Haverford will host the 4/5 match-up for the first time since a 2012 sweep of Gettysburg.
The Fords came out extremely strong out of the gates this season, winning the first 12 matches of the regular season in a spirited run through non-conference play. The 12-match winning streak was the most consecutive victories since the 2007 team started with 24 consecutive wins en route to the Centennial Conference title and a berth in the NCAA Regional Final.
The momentum continued deep in the conference slate, as Haverford notched wins in four of the first six games against Centennial competition. Haverford reached the 20-win mark for the first time since the 2015 season with a tri-match sweep of Dickinson and Misericordia on October 26, and the squad enters the postseason on a four-match winning streak, dropping just a pair of sets in the stretch.
For Haverford, success in the postseason will rely on a bevy of key contributors that dot the Centennial Conference leaderboards. Senior middle blocker Julia Gallagher-Teske (Doylestown, Pa.) is the all-time blocks leader in program history with 419 denials, a mark that is also sixth in Centennial Conference history. Gallagher-Teske enters the Wednesday night showdown with the top blocks per set mark in the conference (1.12) and is 13th in NCAA Division III. As a team, Haverford is far and away the most prolific blocking unit in the Centennial, with 221 rejections. Swarthmore is second in the category, with 188 blocks to its ledger. In the national landscape, Haverford is 18th in Division III with 2.03 blocks per set thus far in 2019.
Kosyagin has also emerged as a major cog in the offense for the Fords in her sophomore campaign. The Las Vegas product been among the most prolific outside hitters in the conference, topping the Centennial leaderboard in kills (315) while ranking fifth in kills per set (2.94). Haverford also tops the conference in service aces, with senior Kendall Robison (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) and sophomore Isabel Schwam (Jacksonville, Fla.) figuring to play a major factor in the serving game for the Fords.
Junior setter Sydney Miller (Phoenix, Ariz.) is another standout to watch for Haverford, as she has solidifed the offense as a vital member of the passing game (871 assists, second in the CC) as well as aiding Haverford's attack, tallying a career-best 10 kills in a versatile showing against Dickinson, and notching a .272 hitting percentage so far this season. The mark ranks second among setters in the conference.
For Swarthmore, Mehra den Braven (2.61 kills per set) figures to be a key contributor on Wednesday night, while Emma Morgan-Bennett has proved to be a spark in the middle for the Garnet, notching 2.03 kills per set while also contributing to the blocking effort, recording 73 total blocks. The total is second only to Isabelle Andrews' 96 total blocks (1.05 per set). Sierra Tyson (7.23 assists per set) leads the team in both assists (687) and digs (402).
Swarthmore is no stranger to recent postseason success, making a spirited run to the NCAA Quarterfinals in 2017 after an 8-2 mark in Centennial play. Last season, Swarthmore spent time in the national rankings before falling to Johns Hopkins in the Centennial final.
Haverford fans wishing to follow the Fords throughout postseason action should bookmark the Centennial Conference Digital Network, and be sure to follow @HCFords_Sports on Twitter and @HCFordsSports on Instagram. The tournament central also serves as a one-stop shop for everything related to the Centennial postseason slate.