No. 1 seed Furman downs Mercer
CULLOWHEE, N.C. – The No. 1 seed Furman Paladins ousted the eighth-seeded Mercer Bears 18-25, 25-20, 25-17, 25-19 on Friday afternoon at the 2017 Southern Conference Volleyball Championship, advancing to the tournament semifinals for a conference-leading 21st time. Furman improves to 21-9 with the win while Mercer’s season, under first-year head coach Derek Schroeder, ends with a 10-21 record.
Fresh off its first-round victory over No. 9 The Citadel earlier in the day, Mercer jumped out to a 14-8 lead over 2017 regular season champion Furman and never looked back, taking the first set by a score of 25-18. Senior Emily Krogman clinched the first set for the Bears with her sixth kill of the game. Krogman finished with a team-best 18 kills.
Furman came out hot in the second set, running out to a 4-0 lead. The Paladins then extended that lead to 9-3, forcing Mercer to take a timeout. Thanks to a seven-point run following the break, Mercer tied the set up at 12-12. But Furman responded with a run of its own, taking a 17-13 lead after a kill by All-SoCon first-team selection Jamila Johnson. Furman retained its lead from then on, taking the second set 25-20 and evening the match at one set apiece.
In the third set, Furman held a 16-10 lead and pushed that lead to 23-16 behind a .484 attack percentage. The Bears were able to score one more point in the set but the Paladins clinched the third set by a score of 25-17.
The fourth set, which featured five ties and three lead changes, was an exciting back-and-forth affair early on. With the score tied at 8-8, Furman scored five of the next six points, making it 13-9 in favor of the Paladins and never trailed again. With Furman leading 24-17 and the Paladins sitting at match point, the Bears were able to tack on two more points but Furman grabbed the win and moved on to face in-state rival Wofford at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Furman was led by All-SoCon second-team selection Nicole Mack as the sophomore finished with 18 kills. Mack was followed by Johnson and Carris Campbell, who finished with 13 and 11 kills, respectively. 2017 Coach of the Year Michelle Young picked up her 343rd career win with the victory.
Along with Krogman’s 18 kills, Paige Alsten tallied 11 kills and two blocks in the match. Libero Emilee Wissmach led Mercer with 20 digs but three other Bears finished with double-digit digs as well. Setter Mddie Nunley accounted for 42 of Mercer’s 46 assists.
No. 4 Wofford downs defending tournament champion Samford
CULLOWHEE, N.C. – In the second match of the 2017 Southern Conference Volleyball Championship, No. 4 seed Wofford defeated fifth-seeded Samford 18-25, 25-22, 25-20, 23-25, 15-11, ending the reigning SoCon tournament champion’s season. The five-set win improves Wofford to 21-10 on the season, adding to its already program record-breaking win total. Samford’s season comes to an end with a 13-18 record. The thrilling match featured 29 ties and eight lead changes.
Samford started the match strong, taking a 14-7 lead and then adding three more points to extended that lead to 17-8. The run forced Wofford to call a timeout, but Samford earned the 25-18 set-one win behind four kills each from All-SoCon second-team member Krista Boesing and Kelsi Hobbs.
The second set was a close back-and-forth affair with neither team able to gain any ground. The match stayed close until the final two points of the game, when 2017 SoCon Co-Player of the Year Catie Cronister crushed two kills and gave Wofford the 25-22 victory, evening the match at one set apiece.
Wofford was dominant in the third set, scoring the first point and then continuing to pull away and take a 7-2 lead after three consecutive kills. Wofford continued its strong play and the closest Samford would be able to get was three as the Terriers cruised to the third-set win, 25-20.
The fourth set saw four ties in the first 10 points before Wofford reeled off three straight points thanks to two kills and a service ace to make it 8-5 Terriers. The Bulldogs then recorded two points of their own to pull within one but again the Terriers pulled away, pushing their lead back to three. Samford, which last led when the score was 3-2, regained the lead by reeling off four consecutive points to take a 13-12 lead. With Samford leading 21-17, Wofford went on a four-point run to tie things up at 21-21. The two squads then traded points and remained tied at 23-23, but Boesing recorded a kill and a block to hand the fourth set to the Bulldogs and set up a winner-take-all fifth set.
Wofford started the fifth set by jumping out to a 6-3 lead, but Samford clawed back and at the fifth-set side change, the Terriers’ lead had been closed down to 8-6. Following a kill by Samford’s Shayla Phillip that made it a one-point game, Cronister and All-SoCon first-team selection Colleen Reilly crushed two kills to push the Terriers’ lead back to three. But like in the previous four sets, Samford stormed back to tie the game at 11-11. Following the timeout by Wofford head coach Lynze Roos, the Terriers got three quick points thanks to two kills and a service ace, making it 14-11 in favor of Wofford. The Terriers clinched the match on the next point after all-freshman honoree Riley Coonan recorded her 10th kill of the game, advancing Wofford to the semifinals for the first time in school history.
For the Terriers, Cronister recorded a double-double with 23 kills and 16 digs, while Reilly and Kara Shacklette each posted double-digit kills. Setter Lorissa King finished with 59 assists and libero Taylor Gill recorded 33 digs.
Samford was led by Boesing and Hobbs, as they finished with 20 and 23 kills, respectively. Phillip also finished with double-digit kills, posting 14 on 31 attack attempts. Five Bulldogs finished the match with double-digit digs and setter Taylor Anderton handed out 55 assists.
Wofford will now await the winner of the Mercer-Furman game to determine who it will face on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Mercer Earns First SoCon Tournament Win, 3-1
CULLOWHEE, N.C. – Friday’s first match pitted eighth-seeded Mercer against No. 9 seed The Citadel, with both programs looking for their first wins in the Southern Conference Volleyball Championship. Behind All-SoCon second-team member Paige Alsten’s 20 kills, the Bears would come out victorious, taking the match 25-20, 22-25, 25-16, 25-16 to improve to 10-20, while the Bulldogs finished their season with an 8-26 record.
In the first set, Mercer jumped out to a 2-0 lead but The Citadel scored the next two points to even things at 2-2. The Bears then answered with six straight points, pushing their lead to 8-2 and forcing the Bulldogs to call a timeout. Following the timeout, Mercer extended its lead to 12-5 before the Bulldogs found a spark and reeled off five straight points, two of which came on kills by all-freshman team honoree Sharlissa De Jesus, cutting the Bears’ lead to two. That’s the closest the Bulldogs were able to get, though, as Mercer pulled away and took the first set, 25-20.
The second set saw seven ties in the first 18 points of the game before The Citadel was able to create a little space a take a 13-11 lead off of two kills by Moriah Smith. The Bulldogs pushed that lead to 18-14 after a kill and block by De Jesus and then clinched the second set, 25-22, after a ball-handling error by Mercer. Heading into the 10-minute intermission, Mercer’s Danielle Faust led the Bears with 10 kills while The Citadel’s Smith and De Jesus combined to record 13 kills.
Mercer raced out to a 7-2 lead in the third set and never looked back, taking a 10-point lead after a kill and then a block by Alsten to make it 20-10 before taking the set 25-16 and a 2-1 advantage in the match.
The Bears continued their hot play into the fourth set, again jumping out in front and taking a 15-9 lead behind a .591 attack percentage and seven kills by Alsten. The Citadel managed to pull within eight, but a service ace by Mercer’s Olivia Sass advanced the Bears to the quarterfinals to face No. 1 seed Furman. Along with Alsten’s 20 kills, Faust finished with 12 kills and Morgan MacGilvary tallied 11 kills. Freshman setter Maddie Nunley recorded 47 assists in the match.
The Citadel was led by freshmen Mellanie King and De Jesus, who both finished with 12 kills. Smith finished her Bulldog career with nine kills in the game, making her The Citadel’s all-time career kills leader with a total of 1,347 kills. Senior libero Gracie Barnes led the Bulldogs with 10 digs.
2017 Southern Conference Volleyball Championship
Ramsey Center ▪ Cullowhee, N.C.
Friday, Nov. 17
Match 1: #8 Mercer 3, #9 The Citadel 1
Match 2: #4 Wofford 3, #5 Samford 2
Match 3: #1 Furman 3, #8 Mercer 1
Match 4: #2 ETSU 3, #7 Western Carolina 0
Match 5: #3 UNCG 3, #6 Chattanooga 1
Saturday, Nov. 18
Match 6: #4 Wofford vs. #1 Furman, 2 p.m. (SDN)
Match 7: #2 ETSU vs. #3 UNCG, 4:30 p.m. (SDN)
Sunday, Nov. 19
Match 8: Match 6 winner vs. Match 7 winner, 2 p.m. (ESPN3)