Estero, Fla. -- After falling to Jacksonville in the conference tournament opener on Friday, the Hatters knew their road to the title would not be easy.
Stetson won four consecutive elimination matches, including three consecutive contests on Saturday, to capture the 2014 Atlantic Sun Conference Championship and automatic bid to the AVCA National Tournament.
Stetson's No. 2 pairing of Savannah Byl and Catherine Coston won the decisive match in the team's 3-2 victory over UNF to lift the Hatters (18-4) to their first-ever league title.
"It feels awesome," Coston said. "This is what we have been working for since coming in second place last year. Riding the bus back (from last year's tournament) we all made a deal that this was going to be our year, and we stuck with that motto all season long."
After winning their first set by a 21-14 margin, Byl and Coston had to go to extra points to win the second set 26-24.
"It was really tough and we pushed through," Byl said. "We focused on one point at a time and didn't get ahead of ourselves. We have been working for this all year, and I am unbelievably happy."
Stetson's No. 5 pairing of Tiffany Creamer and Kristin Lind earned Most Valuable Pair honors after going a perfect 5-0 in the A-Sun Championship, including a 2-1 victory against UNF.
"It was great because everyone put forth an effort that was unbelievable," Creamer said. "We fought for everything we were able to accomplish today."
Stetson also defeated Jacksonville 4-1 and Mercer 5-0 earlier in the day to advance through the loser's bracket.
"Today was a great day," Stetson head coach Kristina Hernandez said. "We had to win three in order for us to get (the title). I thought all the pairs really kept their composure, and we won some really tough sets."
Hernandez also praised the effort of juniors Coston and Byl at the No. 2 seed.
"Cat and Savannah who maybe struggled a little towards the end of the regular season really brought it home for us today," Hernandez said. "It was just a phenomenal feeling for everybody and I am super proud of the team and super excited for everybody."
The Hatters also got three wins Saturday from the No. 4 pairing of Maren Rygh and Jordan Dierickx, who earned all-tournament team honors. The No. 3 team of Rachael Farrell and Julie Bassett won twice Saturday, and the Hatters top seed of Kaley Melville and Kaylee Anderson won their match against Mercer.
Stetson will learn the pairings for the AVCA National Tournament on Monday.