Clarkson's volleyball team part of Battle of Unbeatens in Cortland on Tuesday
Tuesday, September 27, 2011 - 12:35 am

Only seven teams in NCAA Division III remain unbeaten as September winds down, and two of those squads will face off Tuesday evening when the Clarkson University Volleyball team takes on #20 Cortland State. The two teams have more wins without a loss than any other in Division III, but clearly that will change following the match at Whitey T. Corey Gymnasium.

The Golden Knights are 17-0 overall after winning four straight Liberty League matches this past week, marking the best start in program history. The 17 straight victories, at any point in a season, also marks the third longest winning streak in Clarkson history regardless of sport. Only the 1943 Clarkson Baseball squad (19 straight) and 1955-56 Clarkson Men’s Hockey team (25 straight) have enjoyed longer unbeaten runs.

Cortland State, the top team in the region in 2011 as New York University and other regional powers have faltered, is also 17-0 and 4-0 in the SUNYAC. Both the Golden Knights and Red Dragons made the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, with Cortland finishing the year at 34-8 and Clarkson ending its campaign at 28-10. The losses certainly did not unsettle the two programs as they are among seven unbeaten teams remaining in Division III, along with Springfield College (15-0), Washington-St. Louis (14-0), top-ranked and defending national champion Calvin College (14-0), McMurry (13-0), and Pine Manor (7-0). Only Emory University (17-1) has equaled their victory totals.

The two teams met last season at Alumni Gymnasium with Cortland taking the match in four sets. This season, Clarkson is 51-5 in its sets during the 17 matches, while the Red Dragons have nearly mirrorred that dominance at 51-6.

"Obviously being undefeated is pretty cool," said head coach Johan Dulfer, "but what really matters is that we are still seeing improvement every time we play. Without question, Cortland is a formidable opponent, but rather than being concerned about our records, to me our match is about who has grown the most since last year. I know my players remember that we left a little bit on the table that night and we look forward to having another shot at a great team. That said, our focus this year is first and foremost on our conference. The Cortland match is a bonus for us and we are really looking forward to it."

From an individual standpoint, several Golden Knights have continued right where they left off in 2010. Senior Sara Artus (St. Regis Falls, NY), named the conference's player of the week for the second straight seven-day stretch, recently became Clarkson’s all-time leader in kills this past weekend when she surpassed the mark set by Heather Sill '04. Sophomore setter Lani Durio (Austin, TX) set a single-season record for assists last year as a first-year player and is on pace to surpass that total and also race past the per set rate that she produced last year. Durio is also currently cruising along at a pace that will have her set the single-season record for service aces at Clarkson. On the defensive side for the Knights, sophomore Erika Chin (Katy, TX) is averaging nearly five digs per set, and unofficially holds the single-season mark for most miraculous digs. The trio, along with the rest of the Golden Knights, has led Clarkson to an .811 winning percentage (73-17) in the past two and a half seasons.

Notes: Along with the strong start at Clarkson University, head coach Johan Dulfer’s last two assistant coaches, each now in head coaching roles, are off to great beginnings in 2011 as well. Josh Stokes, the assistant coach in 2007-2008, is 16-2 as the head coach at Southern Vermont, while Alesia Vaccari, the assistant coach of the 2009-2010 Golden Knights’ teams that reached the NCAA Tournament, has begun her head coaching career with an 11-2 mark at Simmons College. They, too, play against one another on Thursday evening in Boston.