Lady Mocs ride 26 kills from Ball to 3-1 victory over Elon and rematch with College of Charleston at Southern Conference Tournament
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. ľ Senior middle blocker Leslee Ball (Sycamore, Ill.) pounded a match-high 26 kills and junior libero Lara Newberry (Chattanooga, Tenn.) led the defense with 40 digs as No. 4 Chattanooga, (19-13, 13-5) defeated No. 5 Elon (17-16, 11-7) 3-1 in a Southern Conference volleyball quarterfinal match Friday evening in Chattanooga, Tenn. The Lady Mocs defeated the Phoenix 30-24, 26-30, 30-26 and 30-24 to advance to the Southern Conference semifinals for the third consecutive year. Chattanooga will face No. 1 seed and three-time defending champion College of Charleston for the fifth straight season.
The Lady Mocs got off to a strong start as they pushed out to leads of 6-2 and 15-11 before a 4-0 Phoenix run tied the score at 15-15. With the score at 20-19, UTC, the Lady Mocs extended their lead to 23-19 behind a 3-0 run before pushing out to a 27-22 advantage late in the game. From there, they would close out the frame for a 30-24 victory and a 1-0 match lead.
Game 2 featured separate runs of 5-0 and 7-1 by Elon to stake the Phoenix to a 15-9 advantage early on. Chattanooga stayed within five points before a 6-2 run closed the gap to 22-21. The teams would play through three ties, settling at 25-25, before Elon took five of the final six points to close out the game 30-26 and tie the match at 1-1.
The third set opened with each team posting their own 3-0 run before a four point swing by Elon with the score tied at 5-5 put the Phoenix ahead 9-5. The Lady Mocs rallied back quickly, narrowing the margin to 12-11 before a kill by junior outside hitter Jessica Barrow made it 13-11. A 6-1 run gave UTC a 17-14 lead only to see the Phoenix rise from the ashes to tie the score four times over the next several possessions, the last at 21-21.
From there, Chattanooga gained control of the game as they took seven of the next eight points for a commanding 28-22 lead. The Lady Mocs weathered a late rally by the Phoenix before securing the 30-26 victory to pull ahead, 2-1, in the match.
With a berth in the semifinals at stake, Chattanooga refused to let up, riding the serving of senior outside hitter Jamie Engel (Troy, Ill.) for a 6-0 run and a 15-8 lead in Game 4. The Lady Mocs then extended their lead to 19-11 before a 5-1 run drew Elon to within 20-16. That would be as close as they would get though as UTC would maintain their four-point lead before a 6-2 run with the score at 23-19 made it 29-21. Leslee Ball then put the game, and the match, away, 30-24, with her 26th kill of the night.
Senior middle back Emily Lucci led four Elon hitters in double-figures with 14 kills and added 17 digs while senior setter Natalie Moore fueled the offense with 40 assists. On the defensive front, junior libero Kelley Blakewood and freshman outside hitter Lauren Copenhagen led the way with 27 and 25 digs, respectively, while Copenhagen added 13 kills. Senior outside hitter Brittany Westphal and Barrow rounded out the offensive attack with 12 and 11 kills, respectively, while junior defensive specialist Shelley MacBean added 13 digs and sophomore setter Emily Regan finished with 10 digs and 13 assists.
In addition to Ball’s 26 kills, the Lady Mocs received a match-high 50 assists from freshman setter Bailee Chastain (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) and 21 digs, 12 kills and two service aces from Engel. Newberry’s 40 digs led the way defensively while sophomore outside hitter Ashley Yeager (Parker, Colo.) and senior outside hitter Kelsey Amundson (Houston, Texas) each added 12 digs. Chastain finished with 11 digs and senior middle blockers Julianna Martinez (Austin, Texas) and Sarah Bass (Baton Rouge, La.) each finished with five blocks.
Chattanooga advances to face No. 1 seed College of Charleston in the semifinals tomorrow at 2 p.m. This will mark the fifth consecutive meeting in the Southern Conference Tournament and sixth overall. The Cougars currently hold a 5-0 postseason record against the Lady Mocs, including victories in each of the last four seasons.
With her 40 digs against Elon, Lara Newberry now has 903 on the season and is only 23 shy of breaking the NCAA’s Modern Era record of 924 ... her 40 digs marks the fourth time this season Newberry has topped the 40-dig plateau ... last season, the College of Charleston defeated the Lady Mocs 3-0 in the semifinals of the Southern Conference Tournament ... Chattanooga defeated CofC, 3-2, in the regular season on October 9 at Maclellan Gym to snap a 15-game losing streak dating back to 2000.