No. 2 ETSU Advances to Finals with Sweep
CULLOWHEE, N.C. – Second-seeded ETSU topped third-seeded UNCG in the 2017 Southern Conference Volleyball Championship semifinals on Saturday evening 3-0 (25-19, 25-16, 25-22), sending the Bucs to their sixth championship final appearance and first since 1995. ETSU and No. 4 Wofford will square off in the championship match on Sunday at 2 p.m. with a trip to the 2017 NCAA Tournament on the line. The two sweeps on Saturday marks just the third time in conference history and the first time since 1985 that both semifinals in the SoCon Tournament have gone just three games.
The first set was a back-and-forth affair with eight ties and two lead changes. With the score tied at 12-12, ETSU caught fire and took control of the match with a six-point run, forcing UNCG head coach Corey Carlin to call a timeout. But the Bucs stayed hot and behind five kills from Braedyn Tutton, took set one by a score of 25-19.
In the second set, ETSU ran out to a 10-4 lead and continued to add to that lead after two UNCG attack errors gave the Bucs a 19-12 advantage. A three-point spurt by the Spartans, which included two kills from 2017 Co-player of the Year Ashley Muench, helped cut the gap down to four but after a timeout by ETSU head coach Lindsey Devine, the Bucs scored four unanswered to take a commanding lead and eventually win the set, 25-16.
ETSU scored the first two points of the third set and did not relinquish that lead for the entirety of the game thanks to a .333 attack percentage and six kills by lone senior Rylee Milhorn. UNCG showed fight, chipping away at the Bucs’ lead and getting as close as 23-22 after an attack error by the Bucs, but ETSU clinched the third set and match with the next two points.
Milhorn finished the match with a double-double, tallying 13 kills and 11 digs. Leah Clayton also had a solid game, recording nine kills and 13 digs. 2017 Libero and Freshman of the Year Marija Popovic had a team-high 18 digs.
Muench led the Spartans with a double-double for the second consecutive game, finishing with 13 kills and 11 digs. Four other Spartans finished with double-digit digs including 24 by libero Christina Gregory. Setter Allison Penner handed out 28 assists.
No. 4 Wofford Knocks Off No. 1 Furman
CULLOWHEE, N.C. – Just one day after advancing to the first semifinal in program history, fourth-seeded Wofford knocked off in-state rival and No. 1 seed Furman at the 2017 Southern Conference Volleyball Championship, sending the Terriers to their first championship final in program history. With the 3-0 (25-23, 25-19, 25-20) sweep over the Paladins (21-10), the Terriers now have a chance to clinch the first women’s title in Wofford history. Wofford will play at 2 p.m. on Sunday against the winner of the second semifinal between ETSU and UNCG.
The Terriers (22-10) held a 4-1 advantage early in the first set thanks to two service errors and two attack errors by the Paladins. The 2017 regular season champions stormed back, pulling within one on a kill by sophomore Nicole Mack, before Wofford reeled off four straight points to give them a 12-7 lead. The Terriers never let up, pushing their lead to eight and forcing 2017 Coach of the Year Michelle Young to call a timeout. Coming out of the timeout, Furman scored four of the next five points to cut the Wofford lead down to five. The Paladins eventually closed the gap to one on a kill by junior Jamila Johnson, 24-23, but Wofford clinched the first set on the next play after a Furman attack error.
In the second set, it was Furman’s turn to jump out to a quick lead as the Paladins scored four of the first five points. Sparked by three kills by junior Bijonae Jones, Wofford pulled within one but back-to-back kills by Johnson and Mack pushed the Paladins’ advantage back to three. 2017 Co-player of the Year Catie Cronsiter caught fire following the three-point run by Furman, crushing three kills to even the score at 14-14. Furman added two more points to take a 16-14 advantage but head coach Lynze Roos and company responded with three consecutive kills to take their first lead of the game, 17-16. Wofford extended that lead to four on the next four plays and Furman was never able to recover as the Terriers took a two-set lead in the match with the 25-19 win.
Following a 10-minute intermission, Wofford came out strong in the third set, taking an 8-3 lead after another kill by Cronister. The Terriers continued to pour it on, taking a 17-10 advantage and then pushing that to a 20-13 lead. The Paladins closed the gap to three but Wofford never relinquished its lead and a kill by Jones sealed the three-set win for the Terriers. The win marks the first one in the series for Wofford since Oct. 8, 2016 and just the eighth overall in the 37-year old series against the Paladins.
The Terriers, who had only won two sets in postseason play coming into the 2017 SoCon Championship, were led by Cronister and Jones as the duo tallied 14 and 13 kills, respectively. Jones hit a blistering .440 in the match and also chipped in seven digs. Taylor Gill and Lorissa King both finished with double-digit digs while King handed out 41 of the Terriers’ 45 total assists.
Furman, appearing in its conference-leading 21st semifinals, was led by Johnson with 10 kills. Defensively, Christen Sikora and Meg DeMaar led the Paladins with 13 and 14 digs, respectively. Redshirt junior Hunter Thompson handed out 32 assists in the match.
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 3, #1 Furman 0
Match 7: #2 ETSU 3, #3 UNCG 0
Sunday, Nov. 19
Match 8: #2 ETSU vs. #4 Wofford, 2 p.m. (ESPN3)