Photo Courtesy of Southern Conference
ETSU, Samford Advance to Sunday's Semifinals
Courtesy: Southern Conference
Release: 11/19/2016
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No. 1 ETSU Knocks Off No. 8 Furman


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Top-seeded ETSU knocked eighth-seeded Furman (25-18, 24-26, 25-21, 26-24) on Saturday in the quarterfinal round of the Southern Conference Volleyball Championship on the campus of Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. The win sets the stage for a semifinal clash between the Bucs (22-7) and No. 4 seed Samford (19-13) on Sunday.

ETSU junior outside hitter Rylee Milhorn had a match-high 19 kills for the Bucs, and teammates Briana Allmon and AJ Lux joined her in double-figure kills with 15 and 12, respectively. Allmon, the 2016 SoCon Player of the Year, notched her eighth douoble-double of the year, adding 14 digs to her 15 kills. Bucs’ sophomore setter Alyssa Kvarta tallied 26 assists, while teammate Kristen Favre also put on a 20-assist performance with 23. Sophomore libero Hailey Aguilar totaled 21 digs, helping hold the Paladins to a hitting percentage of .150. Middle blocker Braedyn Tutton also led the Bucs defense, recording a match-high 8.0 blocks.

The Bucs hit .244 for the match on 176 attacks.

Furman setter Ashton Stocker was only five assists short of her career-high 53 assists that came against Samford on Nov. 5. Junior Chisten Sikora and sophomore Jamilia Johnson both reached double-doubles in tonight’s quarterfinal match. Sikora totaled 12 kills and 13 digs, while Johnson tallied 15 kills and 21 digs for the Paladins.

ETSU was the first to create separation in the first set, claiming seven of the first 10 points to jumpstart the Bucs’ offense. Sophomore outside hitter and First Team All-SoCon honoree AJ Lux went 6-for-6 on her first six attempts of the match, helping ETSU close out the first set with a hitting percentage of .306. Ashton Stocker did all she could, putting up 10 assists in the opening set. ETSU junior outside hitter Rylee Milhorn had a ferocious kill from the left side, which was setup by teammate Mariah McPartland to take the first frame in favor of the Bucs, 25-18.

The Palaldins were able to shift momentum heading into the locker room after set two as Stocker continued to distribute the ball to Furman hitters, racking up 16 assists on 18 Paladin kills. The second frame never saw a lead larger than two points for either side, but did bear witness to 17 tie scores and eight lead changes. With the Paladins trailing 23-24, Furman head coach Michelle Young called timeout. Coming out of the huddle, the Paladins scored three straight points from three different players, including Anna Eckstein’s game-winning service ace, to tie that match, 1-1, going into the third set.

The Bucs took the third set, 25-21, after three lead changes and six ties. Milhorn led all hitters with seven kills on 12 attempts, giving her an efficient .583 hitting percentage. Allmon also saw 12 attacks, notching five kills, four digs and 1.0 block assist. ETSU, freshman middle blocker Kaela Massey recorded 3.0 blocks, helping the Bucs’ defense hold Furman to a .048 hitting percentage in the third frame.

In the fourth set, the Paladins took an early 3-1 lead after a kill and block by Furman outside hitter Taina Joseph.  The game remained close as neither team saw a lead greater than two points. With the Bucs leading 24,-23, Stocker set up Joseph for the kill to tie the match at 24-24. With Eckstein serving for the Paladins, Milhorn broke the tie with a kill from Alyssa Kvarta, giving the Bucs the advantage. The following possession Milhorn spiked the ball, which was again set up by Kvarta to advance the Bucs to the semifinals for the second consecutive year.

ETSU will face fourth-seeded Samford in the semifinals at 2 p.m. (CT) on Sunday, Nov. 20. The Bucs won both regular-season contests against the Bulldogs.


No. 4 Samford Sweeps No. 5 Wofford


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Fourth-seeded Samford swept No. 5 seed Wofford, 3-0 (25-22, 25-8, 25-21), in the opening match of the Southern Conference Championship quarterfinals on Saturday at Samford University’s Pete Hanna Center. With the win, the Bulldogs (18-13) advance to Sunday’s semifinal round and will face the winner of No.1 ETSU and No. 8 Furman at 2 p.m. (CT).

Senior outside hitter Erin Bognar, a First Team All-SoCon selection for the Bulldogs, recorded a match-high 13 kills on 32 attempts and also added four digs and 2.0 blocks
2016 SoCon Freshman of the Year Catie Cronister notched her 13th double-double of the season, leading the Terriers with 10 kills and 11 digs. Setter Lorissa King also saw double-digits for Wofford, finishing her freshman campaign with a team-high 12 assists. The Terriers concluded their season with an overall mark of 17-15.

A close first set was separated by no more than four points before Samford took the early 1-0 lead. Bognar came out swinging, tallying six kills on 16 attempts out of the Bulldogs’ 39 total attacks. Wofford’s Alex Holland and Cronister led the Terrier offense in the first set with five kills each and combined for 25 attacks. Wofford, which averaged a .194 hitting percentage in the regular-season, hit just .146 in the opening set. With the score tied at 21-21, Samford took four of the next five points, including a block assist from Samford Kelsi Hobbs and Gabbi Greenwald to close out the first set.

Samford dominated early in the second set, imposing an 11-0 run led by Kate Neisler, who recorded three straight service aces to spark the Bulldogs’ offense. The 11-0 deficit was too much to overcome for the Terriers as The Bulldogs went on to only surrender eight points heading into the break. Through two sets, Bognar reached double-digit kills (10), while setter Taylor Anderton saw double-digit assists (10).

The Bulldogs jumped out to a 12-9 lead in the third frame, but Wofford closed the gap with the help Madeline Savage behind the serving line, who recorded two service aces and forced a Bulldogs’ reception error. With the score tied at 16-16, the Bulldogs called timeout. After the timeout, Samford broke the tie as Bulldogs Erika Pifer and Kelsi Hobbs blocked an attack by Wofford’s Bijonae Jones. Samford went on to capture six of the next nine points to give the Bulldogs match point. With the score at 24-20 in favor of Samford, Wofford’s M.E. Eberhardt recorded a kill off an assist from teammate Kara Shacklette to cut the lead to three (24-21). Samford then called timeout in an attempt to slow any possible momentum by the Terriers. Coming out of the timeout, Samford’s Ericka Pifer setup Kelsi Hobbs for the match-winning kill, allowing the Bulldogs to punch their ticket to Sunday’s semifinals.

Sunday’s semifinal round will air on the SoCon Digital Network with matches scheduled for 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. (CT).

No. 8 Furman Sweeps No. 9 The Citadel


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Eighth-seeded Furman defeated No. 9 seed The Citadel, 3-0 (25-16, 25-19, 25-22), on Saturday in the first round of the Southern Conference Volleyball Championship on the campus of Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. The Paladins (11-18) were led by senior outside hitter Annie Bierman. She posted 11 kills on a 35 total attempts in addition to six digs, while teammate Christen Sikora, a junior outside hitter, notched a double-double for the Paladins with 10 kills and 11 digs.

The Citadel’s standout outside hitter Moriah Smith, a First Team All-SoCon selection, notched a match-high 12 kills with a .345 hitting percentage in a losing effort. The junior also led the Bulldogs with 11 digs, posting her 18th double-double of the season to closeout her junior campaign. The Bulldogs ended their season with an overall record of 8-25.

In the first set, the Paladins pushed out to an early 6-0 lead as outside hitter Taina Joseph helped notch the first three points for Furman with two kills and 1.0 blocks to get things started at the Pete Hanna Center. A timeout from The Citadel head coach Craig Mosqueda sparked the Bulldogs, who took six of the following 10 points, cutting Furman’s lead to 11-6. The Bulldogs were unable to hold off the Paladins as Furman took the first set, 25-16, courtesy a kill from sophomore outside hitter Jamila Johnson.

The second set saw five lead changes through the first 19 plays with the Bulldogs taking the first point of the set. Furman rallied to claim six straight points, giving Furman a 17-13 lead. After the Paladins six-point rally, The Citadel was only able to string together back-to-back points on one occasion for the remainder of the set. The Furman defense held the Bulldogs to a .076 hitting percentage going into the break.

The Bulldogs took an early 5-3 lead in the third set, but once again, the Paladins rallied to take five straight points before the Bulldogs called timeout. After trailing 13-16, The Citadel took 11 of the next 17 points, capturing a 21-19 lead deep in the third set. A kill by Johnson shifted the momentum to the Paladins, which put sophomore outside hitter Jordan McNeill behind the serving line for Furman. With McNeill serving, the Paladins scored four unanswered points to take the lead, 24-21. The Citadel cut the Paladins’ lead to two points with a kill from Megan Sowell, but a service-error by The Citadel’s Sarah Dobrich advanced the Paladins to the quarterfinals.

Furman will face top-seeded ETSU on Saturday, Nov. 19. at 2:30 p.m. (CT), which will broadcast on the SoCon Digital Network. The Paladins and Bucs split their pair of matches in the regular-season. Furman won the first matchup in five sets in Greenville, S.C., on Sept. 23, while the Bucs took the second contest in Johnson City, Tenn., 3-1, on Nov. 8.

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