10/22/04 — Mount Olive beats Lees-McRae at home for first time ever

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Mount Olive beats Lees-McRae at home for first time ever

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 22, 2004 1:57 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive's current junior class -- Sara Christie, Heidi Busch and Colby Mangum -- constantly remind themselves daily of their 0-5 record against conference volleyball opponent Lees-McRae.

Make that 1-5 now.

The trio and their Trojan teammates played their most complete match of the season in a 30-28, 30-20, 30-27 victory against the regionally-ranked Bobcats at College Hall on Thursday evening. Mount Olive beat Lees-McRae on its home court for the first time in regular-season play -- a span of at least 16 matches -- since Oct. 4, 1995.

The Trojans remained unbeaten at home this season and climbed to 11-3 against NCAA Division II Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference opposition. Lees-McRae (21-8) suffered just its second league loss in 13 tries.

"Our intensity was really high and we knew it was a big game," Christie said. "I think we have a tendency of going out, knowing what to expect from teams, so we let ourselves play to their level. This time, we just decided to play our game and act as if they're the number one team in the nation.

"We have nothing to lose."

Christie dished out 47 assists in the straight-set win -- Mount Olive's seventh in CVAC play and 12th overall this season. Busch posted a double-double (21 kills, 11 digs) along with freshman outside hitter Sam Mitchell (11 kills, 16 digs).

Four of Busch's 20-kill performances during her current six-match streak have come against regionally-ranked opponents. Busch extended her streak of double-digit kill performances to 33 matches.

Mangum delivered eight kills and a team-high seven blocks.

In their previous meeting, the Bobcats concentrated on controlling Busch after sophomore middle hitter Anna Luft sustained an injury. The Trojans struggled to pick up their intensity and quickly fell 3-0 after holding a sizable first-game lead.

A healthy Luft proved formidable this time, delivering 10 kills and three service aces.

"We contained Heidi at our place and it made our life a lot easier," Bobcats coach Dan Metil said. "We just focused on Heidi because they really didn't have a middle. When you factor her (Luft) into the game, then we've got to try to contain the middle. Anna is a great player.

"That freed up Heidi on the outside a little bit."

Busch punished Lees-McRae's double-blocking scheme on the outside and averaged seven kills per game. Mangum, Luft and Mitchell provided strong support from the middle, especially on combination plays that bothered Lees-McRae's blockers.

Christie played her best offensive game of the season with four kills -- all off-speed hits that killed Bobcat rallies each time. The Illinois native added six digs and three blocks.

Libero Aileen Torres, who is filling in for an injured Chasity Oxendine, and freshman Ashley Napoles covered the floor well on the back row. The duo combined for 25 digs.

"Everybody was on tonight, so you had to watch everybody," a grinning Busch said. "You had to watch Sara even. She was tipping crazy. Everybody contributed tonight."

Lees-McRae committed 10 serve-receive errors and yielded 12 points on unforced hitting errors. Metil said his team experienced the same troubles the night before at St. Andrews, but managed to claim a 3-0 win.

The Bobcats surrendered numerous free balls and had too many passes inside the 3-meter line near the net. That allowed the Trojans to pull off the net, get a solid pass from the back row and set up an attack.

Mount Olive collected 58 kills with just 16 errors in 142 attempts. The effort translated to a .296 hitting percentage, nearly 20 points better than the team's season average.

"We tried to get matchups and we didn't get the right matchups tonight," Metil said. "Every time I tried to switch my rotation, they'd come out in a different rotation. But we'll fix that by CVAC time."

The three-set match featured 15 ties and 15 lead changes. Lees-McRae, fifth in this week's Atlantic Region poll, never held more than a two-point lead. The visitors trailed by seven points on two occasions in the second set. They led 12-11 in the third set before Mitchell played an instrumental role during 5-1 run with three kills and one block.

"It's all been mental," Busch said of the frustrating futility against the Bobcats. "Now I think we've finally lost it. We've gotten over the hump."

Mount Olive, which secured its third consecutive 20-win season, eyes another revenge match next Tuesday. The Trojans, tied for seventh in the latest Atlantic Region poll, entertain St. Andrews at 6:30 p.m. The Knights handed Busch and her teammates a 3-0 loss on Sept. 15.