Erie, PA. – Following Sunday night’s NCAA DII Atlantic Regional Championship match between #1 Gannon and #2 Clarion, the NCAA announced its All-Tournament team for the 2022 Championship event. Although the Cardinals did not advance to the Championship match like they had hoped, they did land two players on the All-Tournament team. Redshirt Senior Outside Hitter Allonda Watkins and junior Setter Karly Niesen each made the list after impressive performances in both the Quarterfinals and the semifinal rounds.
Wheeling opened the tournament with a quarterfinal match against Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) rival Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) as the Cardinals walked away with a 3-0 win to advance to the semifinals. After taking the first set in commanding fashion 25-12, IUP came back and fought in the final two sets, as the Cardinals finished the sweep with wins of 25-21 and 25-23 to make it to the semifinal round. There, they met with Clarion, who was one of only two regional teams to hand Wheeling a loss during the regular season. After dropping the first two sets 25-20 and 25-13, the Cardinals came back and picked up a big set three win at 25-22. However, they couldn’t keep it going as a big early run led to Wheeling’s demise as they fell 25-12 to end their tournament run.
Leading the pair of honorees was Allonda Watkins, who turned out to be the Cardinal’s top attacker for the tournament. The redshirt senior ended with 28 kills on 48 total attacks with a hitting percentage of .458. Her biggest match of the tournament came in the opener when she knocked down 18 kills and had an impressive .654 hitting percentage to move her team to the semifinal round. Watkins rounded out what has been an impressive career, finishing with 970 career kills and finishing just 30 swings away from the 1,000-point mark for her career. She was named All-MEC First Team, Division 2 Conference Commissioner’s Association (D2CCA) First Team All-Region, and a member of the MEC Championship All-Tournament team, and is adding another award to her resume.
The other All-Tournament team honoree was setter Karly Niesen, who has been the leader of the Cardinal’s offense all season long. She finished the tournament with 77 assists across the two matches and one kill to round out a strong junior season. In the Quarterfinal round, Niesen helped lead the Cardinals to a .459 hitting percentage, their second highest mark of the season behind the .478 mark they hit against Shippensburg earlier in the season. She also had 30+ assists in both matches, bringing her total 30+ assist matches this season to 30 of the 35 matches she has appeared in. Niesen was also named All-MEC First Team, MEC Player of the Year, D2CCA Second Team All-Region, and a member of the MEC Championship All-Tournament team as she continues to add to her accolades.
The Wheeling University Volleyball team now heads into the off-season looking to build on this year’s success and get back to the NCAA Atlantic Regional Tournament again next season.