LANCASTER, Pa. – The Franklin & Marshall volleyball team opened up the Centennial Conference Tournament with a 3-0 first round sweep of Muhlenberg on Wednesday night in front of an amped up Mayser Center Crowd. The third-seeded Diplomats (17-8) defeated visiting Muhlenberg (13-13) by game scores of 25-13, 25-15, 25-21.
With the postseason victory, Franklin & Marshall will now head to second-seeded Swarthmore this Friday for a 7 p.m. rematch against the Garnet in what will be a battle for a spot in the conference championship match.
The Diplomats held the Mules to a negative hitting percentage on Wednesday night thanks in large part to seven blocks while also racking up a number of points at the service line (11 aces). Coco Shultz and Sydney Levins each recorded four service aces to go along with their seven and five kills, respectively. Gianna Mangiamele hit a team-high .571 on the night with 10 kills in just 14 attempts, while Jada West and Lauren Arnold hit north of .300 with six and four kills each.
Tied at eight-all early in the first game, the Diplomats took control by scoring 12 of the next 15 points, including a four straight service points with Hannah McCarthy at the line. Leading 20-11 at that point, the Diplomats cruised to the 25-13 game.
Franklin & Marshall raced out to the 2-0 lead when Shultz stepped to the service line and turned a three-all set into a 8-3 Diplomat advantage. F&M never allowed more than two consecutive serves from the Mules the rest of that set, while earning two service points of their own on three separate occasions.
The third set was tightest of the night from a final score perspective, but the Mules never led and were only tied during three instances. The final tie came at nine-all before the Diplomats were eventually up 18-14 after back-to-back kills from Mangiamele followed by a service ace from Levins. Muhlenberg made the game at 19-18 score, but two service aces and an eventual game-winning kill from Levins secured the 25-21 game as the Diplomats closed the match on a slight 6-3 run.
In addition to a number of strong hitting performances, McCarthy led the team with 16 assists while Liah Perez contributed 13 more. The Diplomats were very strong in serve receptions and registered 48 digs on the evening. Nine different players had multiple digs in the playoff victory, led by Mangum's 10. Makenna Penuel, West, and Arnold each had three block assists, with Penuel adding another solo effort to the winning side.