GREENSBORO, NC – UNC Greensboro got a match-high 18 kills from Branagan Fuller and a match-high 26 digs from Catherine Hanners, but it was not enough as the College of Charleston prevailed in the Southern Conference tournament semifinals on Saturday, 3-1 (25-20, 25-17, 23-25, 25-17) at Fleming Gymnasium.
The Cougars (26-6) ended the Spartans' season in the SoCon tournament for the third year in a row, all by 3-1 scores. The previous two years, the squads met in the final of the tournament. UNCG, the SoCon North Division's No. 2 seed, finished with a 23-10 overall record and a 14-4 mark in the SoCon.
Set three was easily the most thrilling of the match, as it featured 15 ties and five lead changes. With CofC, the South Division's No. 1 seed, leading the match 2-0, UNCG battled back from a 13-8 deficit in the third set with an 8-1 run to take a two-point lead at 16-14. Kaitlyn Nortz was in on a pair of blocks to break a 14-all tie, as she teamed with Fuller and then Luciana Shafer to give the Spartans their biggest lead of the day thus far. Three straight kills put the Cougars back in front, but a Shafer kill tied the score at 17.
The teams traded points until the score was tied at 23, and Fuller slammed home a crosscourt kill to give the Spartans set point. With Fuller serving, UNCG closed out the set on another block from Nortz and Shafer to stay alive.
A Hanners ace got the Spartans off on the right foot in set four, and UNCG sprinted out to a 4-1 lead courtesy of kills from Fuller and Nortz and a block by the two. The Cougars would rally to tie it at 5, with Elyse Chubb in on a pair of blocks with Whitney Russell and Cole Dawley to knot the score. From there, the Cougars gradually pulled away, with their lead eventually swelling to nine points at 24-15. With the Spartans faced with match point, Emily Lindborg picked up consecutive kills to prolong the match. After a CofC timeout, the Cougars won it on a UNCG attack error.
College of Charleston led wire to wire in sets one and two, hitting a healthy .400 in the second set. Russell had five kills in each of the first two sets for the Cougars, while Fuller had six kills in each set for the Spartans.
The Spartans were plagued by poor hitting all night, posting a .080 hitting percentage on the evening and falling victim to 16 Cougar blocks. CofC put together a .221 mark, buoyed by its mere one error in the second set.
Kimiko Naito had a team-high 24 assists for UNCG, while Lisa Fawell had 15. Lindborg posted six kills and hit .429 in filling in admirably for Kayren Finney, who went out with an injury midway through the third set.
Nortz, the Spartans' lone senior, had nine kills and six block assists in her final game in a UNCG uniform.
Dawley led the Cougars with a match-high 39 assists. Russell had a team-best 15 kills for CofC, while Chubb had 10. Emily Shelton (17), Hayley Harrell (16) and Dawley (13) were each in double figures in digs.
Entering the match, UNCG had won eight straight overall and nine straight at home. The Cougars, who went 17-1 in league play this season, avenged their only SoCon loss, a 3-2 defeat in Greensboro on Oct. 12.
College of Charleston advances to Sunday's 2 p.m. championship, where it will face Furman (No. 2 in the South Division), who upset the North's No. 1 seed, Samford, 3-2 in Saturday's earlier semifinal.
CofC def. UNCG 25-20,25-17,23-25,25-17
UNCG (23-10, 14-4 SoCon) (Kills-aces-blocks) - Branagan Fuller 18-0-4; Kaitlyn Nortz 9-0-6; Emily Lindborg 6-0-0; Caley Redden 5-0-0; Kayren Finney 3-0-1; Luciana Shafer 2-0-2; Billi Baker 1-0-1; Kimiko Naito 1-1-0; Catherine Hanners 0-2-0; Alissa Beaudway 0-0-1; Totals 45-3-8.0. (Assists) - Kimiko Naito 24; Lisa Fawell 15. (Dig leaders) - Catherine Hanners 26; Caley Redden 9; Branagan Fuller 8
CofC (26-6, 17-1 SoCon) (Kills-aces-blocks) - Whitney Russell 15-0-8; Elyse Chubb 10-0-13; Emily Sawin 9-0-1; Ginny Phillips 8-1-5; Sarah Havel 6-0-3; Cole Dawley 5-0-2; Totals 53-1-16.0. (Assists) - Cole Dawley 39. (Dig leaders) - Emily Shelton 17; Hayley Harrell 16; Cole Dawley 13; Ginny Phillips 8
Site: Greensboro, N.C. (Fleming Gymnasium)
Date: Nov 22, 2008 Attend: 330 Time: 1:46
Referees: Wade Brence, Kevin Wendelboe
College of Charleston advances to SoCon finals