Published in Sports on November 14, 2005 2:00 PM
The Mount Olive College volleyball team felt that it was entering the championship match of the Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference Tournament playing its best ball of the season. However, the Trojans ran into a Lees-McRae squad that would not be denied an eighth consecutive conference title.
Tournament Most Valuable Player Lacie Smith recorded 12 kills, four blocks and two aces to lead No. 2 seed Lees-McRae to a 30-23, 30-27, 30-24 victory over top-seeded Mount Olive in the championship match of the 2005 CVAC Volleyball Tournament Sunday at Laurinburg.
The loss snaps Mount Olive's school-record 13-match winning streak and denies the Trojans their first tournament title since 1997. Mount Olive won its first-ever regular season conference title.
With the win, Lees-McRae clinches an automatic berth in this week's Atlantic Regional of the NCAA Division II Volleyball Championship. Mount Olive, ranked No. 6 in the final regular season Atlantic Region poll, received an at-large bid for the second year in a row as the Trojans earned the No. 6 seed and will face No. 3 seed Edinboro in the first round of the Atlantic Regional of the 2005 NCAA Division II Volleyball Championship. Lock Haven University (Pa.) plays host to the Atlantic Regional. Complete pairings and schedules have not yet been announced.
Heidi Busch finished with 11 kills and moved up a spot into sole possession of fifth place on the NCAA Division II all-time kills list with 2,442 career kills.
Anna Luft led three Trojan players in double figures with 13 kills. Sam Mitchell added 12 kills for the Trojans. Luft and Mitchell were both named to the All-Tournament Team.
Mount Olive (28-7) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in game one after a Lees-McRae service error and an ace by Sara Christie. But the Trojans suffered a blow when freshman outside hitter Kari Ham left the game with an ankle injury, forcing Mount Olive to play 5-foot-4 defensive specialist on the front row for much of game one.
Lees-McRae (27-10) scored nine of the next 10 points as Valia Petrova served a pair of aces during the run. After the two teams exchanged a series of sideouts, Mount Olive made a run of its own to tie the game 16-16. Despite the size disadvantage, Peavler recorded a solo block during the scoring run.
But Lees-McRae built the lead back to four points and Mount Olive never recovered as the Bobcats took game one.
The second game was a back-and-forth contest that was tied 12-12 as neither team led by more than one point. Lees-McRae used a 6-1 run to take the lead for good and built the lead to as many as seven points. Mount Olive trailed 29-22, but fought off five game points to close the gap to two. Lees-McRae called two timeouts during the Trojan run before getting the final point and taking a two-game lead.
The finish of game two was almost a bit of deja vu for Lees-McRae, which saw a 29-20 lead in game three against Coker in Saturday's semifinal almost disappear. Coker rode the momentum of that game for a decisive win in game four Saturday.
On Sunday, it was Lees-McRae getting off the fast start in the next game, taking a 6-1 lead in game three. Mount Olive got as close as two points on several occasions, the last time at 16-14. But Lees-McRae scored the next four points and went on to build the lead to as many as eight points.
The Trojans made one final run as kills by Luft and Mitchell pulled Mount Olive within 27-24. But Lees-McRae scored the final three points, sealing the win and another championship with Smith's kill at match point.
Christie finished with 34 assists to increase her career total to 5,956 assists, 14th-highest in NCAA II history. Mitchell led the Trojans defensively with 10 digs.
Amanda Huffaker tallied 11 kills and five blocks for Lees-McRae, while Olivia Luce also finished with 11 kills. Petrova recorded 34 assists and shared team-high honors with nine digs.
Petrova and Amanda Huffaker joined Smith on the All-Tournament Team. Andrea Manuel of Coker and Elizabeth Roberds of Converse also earned All-Tournament honors.
Mount Olive defeated Lees-McRae in both regular season meetings, including a win on the road on the final weekend to clinch the regular season title. The Bobcats, which entered the tournament ranked No. 10 in the regional poll, likely needed to win the CVAC Tournament to earn its fifth consecutive NCAA II Tournament bid.
"It's hard to beat a team as good as Lees-McRae three times in a season," said senior Colby Mangum. "They knew they were in a position where they had to win."
Mount Olive erased a number of bad memories at the CVAC Tournament as the Trojans reached the title match for the first time since 1998. But unlike Saturday's two matches, the ball didn't bounce the Trojans' way Sunday.
"You have good days and you have bad days," said Mangum. "Today wasn't our day."
Five players on all-conference team
Heidi Busch, Anna Luft and Sam Mitchell all earned first team honors and Mount Olive garnered five all-conference selections as the 2005 All-Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference Volleyball Team was announced Friday during ceremonies at the CVAC Tournament in Laurinburg, N.C. Sara Christie was named to the second team and Colby Mangum earned honorable mention.
Busch becomes the first student-athlete in Trojan history to earn All-CVAC honors in four consecutive years. Christie and Mangum both earned their third All-CVAC selection.
Busch, a 5-11 senior outside hitter from Fort Wayne, Ind., became the all-time CVAC leader in career kills and moved into eighth place on the NCAA II all-time list with 2,395 career kills. She ranks third in the CVAC this season with 4.52 kills per game and is fourth with a .338 hitting percentage. Busch has reached double figures in kills in 30 of 32 matches this season, including a season-high 29 kills against Anderson.
Luft, a 5-10 junior middle hitter from Swansboro, N.C., earned first team honors for the second consecutive year. Her .341 hitting percentage is the third-highest in the CVAC.
Mitchell, a 5-8 sophomore outside hitter from Boyd, Wis., recorded a career-high 23 kills over then-regionally ranked West Chester (Pa.), and has reached double figures in kills in 13 of her last 15 matches and posted eight double-doubles (kills and digs) this season.
Along with Luft, Busch and Mitchell both earned CVAC Player of the Week honors this season.
Christie, a 5-7 senior setter from Champaign, Ill., is the all-time CVAC leader in career assists.
Mangum, a 6-0 senior from Wilmington, N.C., ranks eighth in the nation with a .410 hitting percentage. Mangum was named to the All-CVAC second team in her sophomore year and earned honorable mention last season.
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