CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – The 2007 season for the Lady Mocs was one filled with numerous individual achievements, ranging from career-highs to significant national recognition, as well as strong play as a team throughout the season.
THE 2007 SEASON
Chattanooga began the season slowly as they opened with a 2-6 record, going 1-2 at both the Georgia State Invitational in Atlanta, Ga. and their own Country Inns & Suites Challenge while also registering 3-1 losses to Samford and Lamar during that stretch. Following the Lamar loss to open the PROS Home Healthcare Invitational in Beaumont, Texas, the Lady Mocs turned around their season.
At that point, Chattanooga proceeded to win its next seven matches, including five straight by shutout, to improve to 9-6 overall and to 4-0 in the Southern Conference. That run, which included an 18-game winning streak, tied for the fifth longest in UTC history while the shutout streak tied for the third longest in the program’s 25-year history.
After back-to-back losses to East Tennessee State and Furman, the Lady Mocs put together a four-match winning streak highlighted by a 3-2 victory over then three-time Southern Conference Champion College of Charleston on Oct. 9. That win snapped a 15-match losing streak to the Cougars that dated back to November 11, 2000. Following that winning streak, the Lady Mocs reached their high watermark of the season, in first place of the Southern Conference with an 8-1 record.
A three-match losing streak followed by three consecutive wins then put Chattanooga at 16-11 overall and 11-3 in the Socon before finishing the regular season with a 2-2 mark to take fourth place in the conference with records of 18-13 and 13-5.
In the 2007 Southern Conference Tournament, hosted at Chattanooga’s Maclellan Gym, the Lady Mocs faced off with fifth-seeded Elon, whom they had swept in the regular season, in the quarterfinal round. After a split of the first two games, UTC pulled out a 30-26 victory in Game 3 before locking up a semifinal berth with a 30-24 win in the fourth game.
That 3-1 victory setup a rematch with the College of Charleston for the fifth consecutive year. Chattanooga dropped the first two games in close fashion, 30-25 and 30-28, to the three time defending champions before staging a fierce rally that saw them win Games 3 and 4 by scores of 30-23 and 30-22 to force a decisive fifth game. In that game, the Lady Mocs went from down 5-2 to ahead 10-7 behind an 8-2 run. It would not be enough, however, as the Cougars pulled ahead 13-11 with a 6-1 run before closing out the match with a 15-13 victory.
Chattanooga finished the 2007 season with an overall mark of 19-14 and 13-15 in the Southern Conference.
INDIVIDUAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND RECORD SETTING ACHIEVMENTS
While the finish to the 2007 campaign did not result in the program’s fifth Southern Conference championship, the season did feature a number of significant individual accomplishments.
Junior Libero Lara Newberry (Chattanooga, Tenn.)
Newberry is quickly becoming one of the most decorated and accomplished players in Lady Mocs history. Already holding the top two single-season dig marks in Chattanooga history, the Chattanooga native entered 2007 needing only 601 to break the program’s all-time digs record of 2,058 set by Kylie Hunter from 1990-93.
On October 16 at home against Lipscomb, Newberry did just that as she recorded 35 digs to move to 2,087 for her career and take over as the Lady Mocs all-time digs leader. She currently has 2,399 career digs as she enters her senior season in 2008. That week Newberry was recognized both as Collegiate Volleyball Update’s National Player-of-the-Week and the Southern Conference’s Co-Player-of-the-Week.
That was far from the only record setting performance that Newberry posted in 2007 as she once again reset her own single-season dig record, posting 25 digs at Western Carolina on October 30 to surpass her 2005 mark of 736. Her final season total would net her perhaps her most prestigious award yet.
Fresh off of being chosen as a Second Team All-Conference selection and the Southern Conference’s 2007 Libero-of-the-Year, Newberry entered the Southern Conference Tournament with 863 digs, 61 shy of breaking the NCAA’s Modern Era Single Season Digs Record. After posting 40 digs in a 3-1 win over Elon in the quarterfinals, Newberry was in reach of the record of 924 set by Minnesota’s Paula Gentil in 2004 as Chattanooga faced the College of Charleston in the semifinals.
In the first half of the match on November 17, Newberry recorded her 925th dig of the season to break the NCAA record before going on to finish the day with 39 digs and 942 for the season. Following the Tournament, she was also named to the 2007 All-Tournament Team for the second time in her career.
In addition to all of these accomplishments, the Chattanooga native led both the NCAA in digs per game with an average of 7.19 and the Southern Conference with a 7.03 average. During the season, Newberry recorded 45 digs in a match twice, first on August 25 at Georgia State and again on Oct. 9 against the College of Charleston, to come within one of tying the Chattanooga single match record and surpassed 40 digs or more four times on the year.
She will enter 2007 only 392 digs shy of the NCAA’s All-Time Modern Era Digs record of 2,791 set by Gentil from 2002-05.
Senior Middle Blocker Leslee Ball (Sycamore, Ill.)
Leslee Ball capped off her career at Chattanooga with an outstanding senior season for the Lady Mocs. The Sycamore, Ill. native finished 2007 with team-leading averages of 4.49 kills and 0.82 blocks and a .317 hitting percentage while adding 1.96 digs per game. She also made her mark in the Southern Conference, placing second in kills per game at 4.49, third in points with an average of 5.19 and eighth in hitting percentage with a mark of .299.
Ball’s season average of 4.49 kills is the second-highest in program history, trailing only Rachel Evan’s (1995-98) mark of 5.14 set in 1997, while her total of 588 kills is third all-time behind Evan’s 643 kills in 1997 and 592 in 1996. Her .317 hitting percentage is the seventh-highest in Lady Mocs history for a single-season. For her career, she finishes third in total kills with 1,472 and her hitting percentage of .279 places tenth all-time.
In 2007, Ball notched double-figure kills in 31 of 33 matches and posted 20 or more kills in 12 matches, including a career-high 31 kills at The Citadel on October 23. She also posted nine double-doubles with a career-high 24 digs against UC-Riverside on September 15 and also added 27 kills in that match.
Additionally, she totaled 108 blocks on the season and posted a career-high of nine at Davidson on October 21. It is the second consecutive year that she has passed the century mark in blocks and this year’s total places her tenth in Lady Mocs history for a single-season.
For her efforts this year, Ball was twice named Southern Conference Player-of-the-Week (September 24-30 and October 22-28) and was named as a member of the Southern Conference First-Team following the season.
Senior Setter Bethany Herndon (Richmond, Texas)
Bethany Herndon rounds out her career as the second-most prolific setter in Chattanooga history, finishing with 3,550 assists for her career, only 360 away from Jenny Kulwinski’s (1996-99) career mark of 3,910. If not for a season-ending injury on October 14, Herndon would have finished her career as the Lady Mocs all-time leader.
This season, the Richmond, Texas native posted six matches with 50 or more assists, including two over 60, and finished with a team-leading 11 double-doubles. On October 6 at Furman she tied her career-high of 63 assists and posted 61 assists three days later in a 3-2 win over the College of Charleston on October 9. Her 11.18 assists per game average in 2007 places sixth all-time for single-season performance at Chattanooga.
Additional Career-Highs and Achievements
Senior middle blocker Julianna Martinez (Austin, Texas) drilled a career-high 21 blocks in the semifinal loss to the College of Charleston on November 17 while senior outside hitter Kelsey Amundson (Houston, Texas) tied her career-high of 25 digs against Lipscomb on October 16.
Senior outside hitter Jamie Engel (Troy, Ill.) finished with a team-high 52 service aces in 2007 and placed fourth in the Southern Conference with an average of 0.50. Engle also broke her previous career-high of 22 digs when she registered 23 against Elon on October 14 and 29 versus Lipscomb on October 16 and finished the season with nine double-doubles.
Freshman setter Bailee Chastain (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) produced a strong second half of the season after stepping into the starting lineup on October 14. The local product posted seven matches of 50 or more assists, including two 63 assist matches and a career-high 68 assists in the semifinal loss to the College of Charleston. She also finished the season with nine double-doubles and placed fifth in the Southern Conference with an average of 11.00 assists per game.
Sophomore outside hitter Ashley Yeager (Parker, Colo.) notched a new career-high in kills with 15 against Elon on November 11, surpassing her previous mark of 12 set on November 3, 2006 at The Citadel while junior right side hitter Laura Nethery (Hixson, Tenn.) posted a career-high 15 kills on October 6 against Furman.
DEPARTING SENIORS FROM 2007
The Lady Mocs will lose six seniors to graduation following this season. They are Kelsey Amundson, Leslee Ball, Sarah Bass, Jamie Engel, Bethany Herndon and Julianna Martinez.
RETURNING PLAYERS FOR 2008
Chattanooga will return eight players for the 2008 season, including one of the top liberos in the country in Lara Newberry and a strong setter in freshman Bailee Chastain. They will be joined by sophomore outside hitter Ashley Yeager as well as junior right side hitter Laura Nethery and junior setter Michaela Huff. Freshman Aurore Kullak (Beloeil, Belgium) will be back as well after contributing significantly on both offense and defense in 2007.
The Lady Mocs will also return two freshman from this season who did not see substantial playing time. Jessica Scott, a 5-11 middle blocker from Lawrence, Kansas did not play at all while 6-2 middle blocker Courtney Barnes (Franklin, Tenn.) played in only 16 games, registering 14 kills and seven blocks. Barnes notched a season-high 10 kills with four blocks against Lipscomb on Oct. 16.
Chattanooga will fill out the remaining roster spots for 2008 through offseason recruiting and additional awards such as All-Region and All-America will be announced in the coming weeks.