No. 2 seed women’s volleyball to face No. 1 seed James Madison University in CAA semifinals


No.2 North conference seeded Huskies will face No.1 South conference seed JMU Friday evening in the CAA semifinals.

Mihiro Shimano, sports editor

After a dominating 3-0 win against Hofstra University last Saturday, the Northeastern Huskies (7-2, 4-1 CAA) will look to face James Madison University (7-2, 6-1 CAA) in the CAA semifinals Friday evening in Towson, Maryland. This will be the first semifinals appearance for the Huskies since 2013, when they matched against University of North Carolina Wilmington, winning 3-0 and going on to play against College of Charleston in the finals. 

Northeastern’s path to the semifinals has been relatively short compared to previous years, as their regular season in the fall was postponed due to COVID-19. CAA also split the conference into two, North and South, effectively dividing the number of teams in each conference in half. NU, who is in the North conference, only managed to play Delaware and Hofstra in a three-weekend series because their series against Towson University was canceled due to COVID-19. JMU currently stands first in the South conference, having won all but one game against Elon University.

“This has been a tough year and to see the team rally, for us to come out of this spring season as competitive as we have been, I’m very proud of this group,” said head coach Lenika Vazquez after last weekend’s match

The Huskies have had a successful season despite a series of complications and cancellations. Sophomore defensive specialist Kayla Martin and sophomore outside hitter Erica Staunton were both named twice as CAA Defensive and Offensive Players of the Week respectively. Two freshmen, outside hitter Defne Arliel and middle blocker Marika Virthe, were named CAA Rookie of the Week. Despite the adjustments to their game schedule as a result of COVID-19, the irregular season has served well for the young team, led strongly by Vazquez. 

Staunton has led the offensive play for the Huskies this season, averaging 4.15 kills per set and hitting .246. Her all-time high this season was during the non-conference game against Merrimack College, where she amassed 20 kills while hitting .600. Sophomore middle blocker Nailah Jenkins and Arliel have also shown vicious attacks, both averaging 2.44 and 2.36 kills per set respectively. 

On the defensive end, Martin averaged 4.67 digs per set, scoring a career-high of 27 digs in a game against Hofstra. The front row, led mostly by Jenkins, Virthe and junior opposite outside hitter Brianna Daphnis, has also been tough to their opponents, letting seldom balls get past the net with an average of 1.47, 1.07 and 0.64 blocks per set respectively. 

The team, composed of mostly freshmen and sophomores, has brought high energy to the court, resetting even after losing a set and making several comebacks throughout this season. 

However, the Huskies will be up against a tough opponent Friday evening as JMU brings their own roster of decorated players. Freshman outside hitter Miette Veldman leads the offense, averaging 4.26 kills per set, hitting .270. Veldman was most recently named CAA Offensive Player of the Week and has also received two other weekly conference honors this season. 

JMU’s defense also holds strong, with sophomore middle blocker Sophia Davis amassing 13 block singles and 41 block assists this season, with a stellar 17 blocks during their sweep against the College of Charleston, earning her the CAA Defensive Player of the Week title. Their junior defensive specialist Savannah Marshall averages 4.97 digs per set, having totaled 174 digs this season. 

The last time Northeastern faced JMU in 2018 during conference play, they were dominated on the court 3-0 (25-16, 25-9, 25-22), but with an almost new roster, the Huskies will see a change in play that may land them the ticket to the CAA finals.