Last weekend, Joelle Snyder and Emily Perkins became part of Lebanon Valley College sports history.

Snyder, Perkins and the Dutchmen volleyball team avenged its lone Commonwealth Conference setback of the regular season by knocking off Elizabethtown College to become the first team in LVC history to win three straight conference championships.

While the Lehighton natives were glad to be a part of history in the making, the two First Team All-Commonwealth Conference players are more thrilled to see their final volleyball campaign extend into the NCAA Division III Tournament.

"It was our goal since the beginning of the season to win the conference and make it back to the tournament and it is a great way to end our senior season," said Snyder, who was the CC Player of the Year in 2009 and Rookie of the Year in 2007. "The past two years have definitely helped us prepare for it because we now know what to expect.

"We know we to have to play our "A" game to pull out a win. As a team, we will be more relaxed since we have many experienced players."

In 2008 and 2009, the Dutchmen didn't make it past the first round, but this year they plan on advancing further than they have in years past.

"We are going to take a lot of faith and perseverance with us," said Perkins, who took over the fulltime setting duties for the Dutchmen this season. Perkins started all 32 matches this season after playing a total of 32 matches the previous two seasons. "In the semifinal match against Messiah, we were down two sets to zero and came back to win in five. That taught us to never give up and keep our heads up.

"We would really love to make it out of the first round because we have never accomplished that goal before. It would be a great way to end our volleyball careers."

Snyder, a Marian Catholic graduate and former TIMES NEWS Volleyball Player of the Year, led the Dutchmen in kills (286), hitting percentage (.303), service aces (42) and total blocks (57). Playing in 91 games this season, she also ranks atop the conference in hitting percentage, is second in kills and third in service aces.

"I will be a leader on the court with my actions and spirit and lead the team by example," said Snyder. "We need to play like we know how."

Perkins, a Lehighton High School graduate, led the Dutchmen with 1,072 assists, which ranked her atop the Commonwealth Conference and placed her 11th in assists per game nationally

"As the setter, I will take charge and set the tone for our team," said Perkins. "I'll try to use a positive attitude to keep everyone calm and collected."

Lebanon Valley College, which sports a 23-9 overall record, will head to Frostburg State University in Maryland to play Ithaca College (22-14), the Empire 8 champions, in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday at 12:30 p.m.

"So far we don't know too much about them, but we expect them to be pretty similar to us," said Snyder, who is a four-time First Team All-Commonwealth Conference honoree. "They have about the same record and we have played a few of the same teams. We're not too worried because we have nothing to lose and everything to gain."

Perkins is glad the way things panned out on and off the court over the last decade for her and Snyder, who grew up right down the street from each other in Lehighton and played CYO volleyball together for SS. Peter and Paul Elementary School from fourth through eighth grade.

"Being able to play our college volleyball careers together has been very special to us," Perkins said. "We have been friends, neighbors, and classmates since kindergarten and even teammates since fourth grade. We have been living together since our freshman year and our strong bond off the court has helped us develop a great connection on the court as well.

"We have had such a blast playing together and are looking to make this a memorable weekend with a team we love."