09/18/05 — Mitchell emerges Trojans' all-star in CVAC match

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Mitchell emerges Trojans' all-star in CVAC match

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on September 18, 2005 2:07 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Lose at home?

Conference newcomer Converse (S.C.) College caused some doubt and concern after staking a 2-0 lead against Mount Olive College's volleyball team Saturday afternoon. The All-Stars shut down two-time All-American Heidi Busch and threatened to snap the Trojans' 13-match home win streak at Kornegay Arena.

Busch managed 14 kills, but Converse undoubtedly learned it must prepare for another outside hitter -- Sam Mitchell -- before the teams' next meeting. Mitchell notched a match-high 18 kills as Mount Olive battled for a come-from-behind 29-31, 23-30, 30-16, 30-26, 15-12 victory in Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference play.

Converse (8-8, 3-3 CVAC) executed a double-blocking scheme against Busch to near perfection the first two games. The All-Stars played tight defensively and kept at least five people inside the 3-meter line in case Busch managed to get through or deflect a kill attempt off the block.

The senior from Indiana tried to hit around and cut the ball inside the 3-meter line, but dropped several balls into the net. Busch had nine of her 10 total hitting errors in the first two games combined and attempted 47 kills overall in the 2-hour, 13-minute affair.

Mount Olive (5-2, 3-0) struggled without Busch's offense and toiled through 30 unforced errors as it fell behind 2-0 in the best-of-5 match. The All-Stars, affiliate members of the CVAC this season, converted the Trojans' mistakes into key points late in game one and midway through game two.

"I think maybe we took them a little too lightly, came out a little too easy and weren't playing as a team," said senior middle hitter Colby Mangum. "I think we weren't relying on each other ... looking at each other, wondering whose ball is that and who is going to step up.

"I think that was our biggest problem. We really need to work on our confidence within ourselves and within each other. A team with this kind of experience has no business making those kinds of errors, and that's something we'll concentrate on during practice this week."

On the verge of losing at home for the first time since 2003, Mangum and fellow middle hitter Anna Luft came alive in game three. The duo combined for six kills, all off Mallory Peavler assists, to help the Trojans turn a 10-10 tie into a 19-11 advantage.

Busch had two kills and one block during that stretch.

Mitchell provided an early spark in game four, pounding back-to-back kills off All-Star middle blocker Lauren Mueller. The Trojans cruised ahead by as much as 17-12 before Converse whittled the deficit to 18-15.

An off-speed hit by Mitchell made it 19-15. Again, the All-Stars rallied and climbed within 20-18. Mount Olive played steady on both sides of the court and took control at 24-20 on Mangum's monster middle-court kill.

Mitchell had two kills during that surge and Luft closed out the set with a block against Converse outside hitter Leslie Shain.

"We just started to have fun," said Mangum of the Trojans' comeback. "We just played volleyball like we all know how. Sometimes I think we get a little too flustered and start worrying too much."

Brimming with confidence and determined not to let their home win streak slip away, the Trojans bolted to an 11-4 lead in the decisive fifth game.

Mitchell provided five consecutive kills during that stretch.

"I just knew that I had to take care of business," Mitchell said. "We talked about it earlier today that if somebody is not playing as well as they can, we have to pick each other up ... keep a positive attitude."

Converse switched strategies and used a short serve to take away Mitchell from the left side. The All-Stars pulled within 11-9 on two Mueller off-speed hits and Brittany Ogez's block against Mitchell.

After a Converse hitting error, Mitchell responded with her 18th kill to give Mount Olive match point at 14-9. The All-Stars -- again -- stopped the rally and closed the gap to 14-12 when Sarah Joydan-Inalloo blocked Mangum, who misread the defense.

"I had that side all day and didn't look at my blocker," Mangum said.

But like a true senior, Mangum answered with an off-speed kill and helped the Trojans keep their win streak intact.