11/11/05 — Trojan women eyeing CVAC volleyball title

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Trojan women eyeing CVAC volleyball title

Published in Sports on November 11, 2005 1:47 PM

The Mount Olive volleyball team set three primary goals for the 2005 season: win the regular season conference title, win the conference tournament and return to the NCAA II Volleyball Tournament. The Trojans reached their first goal last weekend. If they can achieve goal No. 2 this weekend, goal No. 3 is automatic.

For the first time in school history, Mount Olive is the No. 1 seed as the Trojans compete in the 2005 CVAC Volleyball Tournament at Laurinburg, N.C., hosted by St. Andrews Presbyterian College. Mount Olive earns a first-round bye and begins play Saturday at 11:30 a.m. against the winner of Friday's first-round match between No. 8 seed Barton and No. 9 Anderson.

The winner of the CVAC Tournament earns an automatic berth in the Atlantic Regional of the NCAA Division II Women's Volleyball Championship.

Mount Olive (26-6 overall, 19-1 CVAC) enters the tournament on an 11-match winning streak, capped by a come-from-behind five-game win at Lees-McRae to clinch its first-ever regular season CVAC title. The Trojans' 19 conference wins is a CVAC volleyball single-season record.

Despite the excitement of last Saturday's win to clinch the regular season title, senior Sara Christie says the celebration was short-lived as the Trojans began preparing for the tournament.

"We really can't think about regular season title," said Christie, a 5-7 setter. "We're just focusing on this weekend."

That's not to say the win and the Trojans' current winning streak gives the team momentum heading into the weekend.

"Getting the win at Lees-McRae was a boost going into this weekend," said Christie. "We are feeling good about the tournament. I feel like we are peaking at the right time."

Sophomore Sam Mitchell says the "big game atmosphere" at Lees-McRae last Saturday should help the Trojans this weekend.

"There was a lot riding on that match and I think we handled the pressure well," said the 5-8 outside hitter. "We were on the road at a tough place to play in front of a very vocal crowd. To pull out that kind of win with so much riding on it means a lot."

Mitchell added, "That kind of match helps prepare us for the tournament. Every game in the tournament is must-win."

During Mount Olive's current 11-match winning streak, the Trojans have employed a balanced attack at the net, placing three and even four players in double figures in kills.

Senior Heidi Busch enters this weekend in eighth place on the NCAA II all-time kills list with 2,395 career kills and is 16 kills away from jumping up to No. 6. The 5-11 outside hitter also ranks third in the CVAC in kills and fourth in hitting percentage this season.

Last year's tournament brings back bad memories for Busch and the Trojans. An ankle injury five days prior to last year's tournament kept Busch out of the lineup as Mount Olive was eliminated by Barton in the quarterfinal round.

The Trojans were the No. 2 seed in the tournament in each of the last three years, but never got any further than the semifinals. Christie says the Trojans' experience in the tournament will serve as motivation this year.

"We're thinking about the previous tournaments only from a motivational standpoint," said Christie. "We've learned our lesson that you can never take anything for granted. We're just taking it one match at a time."

Despite last season's first-round loss, Mount Olive earned an at-large bid to the NCAA II Tournament. The Trojans hope to win the CVAC Tournament this year and control their own fate.

"We want to get back to regionals, but this time, we want the automatic bid," said Mitchell. "To do that, we need to win the tournament this weekend."

Mount Olive is ranked No. 6 in this weekend's NCAA II Atlantic Region Poll, the same ranking heading into last year's conference tournament. But the Trojans prefer not to leave anything to chance.

"We want to win the conference tournament and the automatic bid," said Christie. "We don't want to have to wait by the phone Sunday night."