GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - The Richard Stockton College women's volleyball team had an extra reason to celebrate Saturday after sweeping its way to a fifth straight New Jersey Athletic Conference championship in its home gym.

Stockton blanked Rutgers-Camden 3-0 in the championship match, breaking the record of four straight NJAC women's volleyball titles set by Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) from 1984-87. At the awards ceremony, all the Stockton players held up five fingers.

Stockton receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament. The first-round pairings and regional sites will be revealed at 11 a.m. Monday. The tournament begins Friday.

The pattern in the NJAC final was the same in each of the three sets. Stockton (27-6) took a good lead each time and withstood comebacks by the Scarlet Raptors (24-7) to win. The scores were 25-20, 25-16 and 25-16.

Team co-captain Stephanie Warner is Stockton's only senior. Warner had 11 kills, as did junior Kasey Hennecke. Nicole Serekian, another junior, finished with seven kills.

"It's unbelievable to win it all four years, and to have the NJAC record is definitely an awesome feeling," said Warner, a 21-year-old Paterson resident. "We didn't get overconfident even though we beat them before. We had to play it all the way through or Rutgers-Camden could come back. Once we got to 20 points in the third set, I started to get excited."

Junior Mayan Alvarado is Stockton's other co-captain. She had one kill, a team-high 21 assists, two aces (tied with Emily Grube for the team high), and five digs. Sophomore Ashley Gubista added a team-high 16 digs and Serekian added 11. Shannon Clark had eight assists.

"Winning it three years in a row is really exciting for me," said Alvarado, 21, a resident of Gainesville, Fla. "(Rutgers-Camden) took (a set) from us in our regular-season match, so it was a lot to beat them in three."

Stockton swept Kean University 3-0 in a semifinal earlier Saturday, with scores of 25-13, 25-19 and 25-11.

"They worked really hard this year to get to this point," Stockton coach Allison Walker said of her team. "There was a lot of conditioning and hard work. There was a lot of pressure since we were going for our fifth straight title. Your're the hunted and everybody gets up for you.

"We lost five seniors last year and some people didn't expect us to be as good. We brought in a strong freshman class and had a lot of good returnees. It's an honor to have the players I have."

The Ospreys went up 5-0 in the first set, but Rutgers-Camden tied it at 12-12. Stockton went up again, and Ali Giordano gave Stockton its 25th point with a kill to an open space.

Stockton led 4-0 and then 8-2 in the second set before the Scarlet Raptors cut it to 15-10. Warner tipped one over the net to make it 17-10, and two kills by Serekian and one by Hennecke helped the Ospreys to another large lead. Giardano again gave her team the winning point, this time with an ace.

Stockton built a 13-4 lead in the third set. Rutgers-Camden started to score at that point but couldn't get closer than 21-14.

Contact Guy Gargan:

609-272-7210