Lady Mocs rally falls just short as College of Charleston wins 3-2 in Southern Conference semifinals
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Senior middle blocker Tiffany Blum drilled a match-high tying 21 kills and senior setter Lindsey Kane notched 54 assists to lead No. 1 College of Charleston (24-7, 16-2) to a narrow 3-2 victory over No. 4 Chattanooga (19-14, 13-5) in a Southern Conference Tournament semifinal match Saturday afternoon in Chattanooga, Tenn. The Cougars defeated UTC 30-25, 30-28, 23-30, 22-30 and 15-13 to reach their fourth consecutive championship match where they will face No. 6 UNC Greensboro.
Following a relentless comeback from down 0-2 to force a fifth and final game, the Lady Mocs quickly found themselves behind 5-2 in that final frame. At that point, Chattanooga mounted a tremendous 8-2 run behind six kills to take a 10-7 lead. After the Cougars narrowed the gap to 10-8, senior middle blocker Julianna Martinez (Austin, Texas) drove home a kill to extend the lead back to three at 11-8.
It would be the last point the Lady Mocs would score with the lead as the College of Charleston scored the next four points, two on kills by Blum, to pull ahead 13-11. Two kills by senior middle blocker Sarah Bass (Baton Rouge, La.) pulled Chattanooga to within 14-13 before the Cougars closed out the game, and the match, with a 15-13 victory to advance to the Southern Conference Championship Game.
Early on, the College of Charleston showed why they are three-time defending conference champions as they took an early 11-5 lead in Game 1 and extended that to 17-10 before a 6-1 Chattanooga run narrowed the gap to 18-16. The Cougars continued their strong play, though as they withstood several runs that pulled UTC to within one point. Leading 24-23, CofC put the game away with a 6-2 run to secure a 30-25 Game 1 victory and a 1-0 match lead.
It was the Lady Mocs turn to come out strong in Game 2 as they took leads of 8-3 and 10-5 before seven straight points by the Cougars gave them the lead, 12-10. UTC then rallied with a 5-0 run of their own to pull back ahead 15-12. From there, the two teams played through four ties until the College of Charleston took a 21-19 advantage. With the score tied at 22-22, the Cougars went on a 4-1 run, taking a 26-23 lead only to see Chattanooga post a 4-0 run to take back the lead, 27-26. That lead would be short-lived as CofC scored four of the final five points, two on kills by Blum, to lock up a 30-27 Game 2 victory and secure a daunting 2-0 match lead.
It was a different story over the next two games as the Lady Mocs responded with their backs against the wall. Chattanooga managed an early 10-8 lead in Game 3 before posting five straight points to push that lead to 15-8. The Cougars then responded with a 6-1 run to pull to within 16-14. CofC eventually closed the gap to 22-21 only to see UTC mount an 8-2 run to close out the game with a 30-23 victory and get back in the match at 2-1.
Chattanooga continued to be equal to the task in the fourth game, deadlocking with the Cougars at 7-7. From there, the Lady Mocs got on a roll, drilling seven kills during a 9-2 run that put them in control of the game with a 17-9 lead. The College of Charleston clawed back to within 21-15 before UTC put the game away with another 5-0 run that extended their lead to 26-15. The Lady Mocs then withstood a late rally before securing the 30-22 victory to knot the match and send it to the dramatic fifth game.
In addition to her 21 kills, Blum added a match-high eight kills and was joined in double-figure kills for the Cougars by senior middle blocker Annie Uthe with 17 kills while Kane added 19 digs and three service aces to go along with her 54 assists. Senior defensive specialist Megan Parkerson led the defense with 23 digs and was joined by freshman outside hitter Cole Dawley with 16 digs.
While Chattanooga’s efforts did not result in a victory, they did produce a number of impressive individual performances, beginning with junior libero Lara Newberry (Chattanooga, Tenn.). The nation’s leader in digs per game, and the Lady Mocs all-time digs leader, added another record to her collection in the first half of the match as she recorded her 925th dig of the season, breaking the NCAA Modern Era record. She would go on to finish the match with 39 digs, one shy of what would have been her fifth 40-dig performance of the season.
Freshman setter Bailee Chastain (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) finished with her third career 60-plus assist match, finishing with a career-high 68 assists and Julianna Martinez set a new career-high in kills with 21, surpassing her old mark of 19 set against Western Carolina on September 27, 2005.
Freshman outside hitter Aurore Kullak (Beloeil, Belgium) recorded 10 kills and 12 digs for her second career-double while Bass added 19 kills while senior middle blocker Leslee Ball (Sycamore, Ill.) finished with 14 kills and five blocks.
With the loss, the Lady Mocs complete the 2007 season with a 19-14 overall record and a 13-5 record in the Southern Conference.
The loss is the fifth straight to the College of Charleston in the post season, each of which has come in the last five seasons ... Newberry finishes the 2007 season with 942 digs, a new NCAA Record, and a nation-leading 7.19 digs per game average average ... www.GoMocs.com will have additional coverage of Newberry breaking the Single Season NCAA digs record.