No. Six Seed Trojans Topple Second-Seeded TusculumNovember 23, 2013
NEWBERRY, S.C. – With four players reaching double-figure kills, the No. 6 seeded Anderson volleyball team notched its second upset in as many days by outlasting second-seeded Tusculum, 3-2 (23-25, 25-23, 26-24, 20-25, 15-7) in semifinal action of the 2013 Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Tournament Saturday afternoon at Newberry College’s Eleazer Arena.
“Tonight was a repeat of last night where we were able to execute with perfection,” said Anderson head coach Craig Mosqueda. “Our offense as a whole was excellent. Alix (Hooker) led us on defense and our ball handling was very impressive. I am very proud of this group, which has played well all weekend and are playing with a lot of heart.”
A day after sweeping third-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne to earn its’ first-ever SAC Tournament victory, Anderson (17-13) knocked off Tusculum (21-10) for just the second time in school history and the first time since the 2004 campaign.
The Trojans have won four straight and five of their last six, while earning a berth in the conference tournament finals for the first time since joining the league in 2010. Anderson will square off against top-seeded and nationally ninth-ranked Wingate in the championship tilt on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.
The first set was tied three times in the early going, but the Trojans were never able to gain the lead. Leading, 11-9, Tusculum took its largest lead of the frame (15-10) on the strength of a 4-1 surge, but Anderson answered with a 7-2 run of its own to even the score for the fourth time of the set. The Pioneers built a late two-point edge and claimed the set by the same margin.
The Trojans held off a late Tusculum rally to claim the second frame, as AU posted an early 5-0 run to take an 11-6 lead. After the Pioneers climbed within two, at 14-12, the Trojans steadily built their largest lead of the set, at 21-14, before Tusculum reeled off five unanswered points as part of an overall 9-3 run to battle back within one. However, junior middle blocker Hailey Pittman posted the final kill to give Anderson the win.
With the third set knotted at seven apiece, the two team traded four-point outbursts, with the Trojans surging to an 11-7 lead, before Tusculum countered with four straight points of its own to even the score for the fourth time. Anderson then rattled off four unanswered for a 15-11 edge and pushed out to a 20-15 lead before the Pioneers closed within 22-21. Redshirt freshman Tinsley Hallman and Pittman recorded back-to-back kills before TC’s Megan Hasse posted a kill and AU committed a pair of miscues to even the score at 24-24. Redshirt freshman Priscilla Irizarry halted the run with a kill, with Pittman and junior setter Meghan Cautero combining on a block to finish the set.
The fourth set featured seven early ties before Anderson snapped a 7-7 deadlock with a 7-1 outburst behind the strong serving of Irizarry and junior Alix Hooker, who finished with three aces. But Tusculum answered with an 11-2 run as part of an overall 17-6 surge to win the set and force a fifth and deciding set.
The Trojans regained the momentum in the final frame, racing out to a 9-3 advantage and the Pioneers were unable to recover. AU’s lead grew to eight late in the set and Irizarry knocked down the final kill of the match.
“Also impressive tonight was our blocking,” added Mosqueda. “Hailey and Jessica did a great job closing the block and leading an impressive night.”
Junior outside hitter Shannon Gillespie led all players with 16 kills and added 12 digs for her 23rd double-double of the season. Irizarry tallied a career-high 15 kills and posted 12 digs to go along with six block assists, as she recorded her third double-double of the season. Pittman posted 14 kills and five block assists on the afternoon. Hallman finished with 10 kills, 10 digs and four block assists, as she recorded her first career double-double. Cautero narrowly missed her 11th double-double after dishing out a match-high 52 assists and coming up with eight digs in the win. Hooker shared match-high honors with 31 digs. True freshman Jessica Harris recorded six block assists.
The Trojans will be looking for their second win in school history past the Bulldogs and their first since Oct. 1, 1999, when the Trojans were in their first year as a member of NCAA Division II. Wingate has won 11 straight over AU and leads the overall series, 11-1.