The Stetson University volleyball team moved a giant step closer to securing a bid in the Atlantic Sun Conference championship with a 3-1 victory over USC Upstate Friday night at the Edmunds Center.
The Hatters (17-11, 8-5 A-Sun) won by scores of 25-14, 22-25, 25-16, 25-21 to reduce their magic number for clinching a postseason berth to one.
Stetson hit .550 in the first set and cruised to an 11-point win, and the Hatters appeared to be headed to a 2-0 lead when USC Upstate (4-19, 3-10) scored the final five points of set two to even the match. Frames three and four remained tight until the Hatters used a couple of late surges to take the sets and close out a 3-1 victory.
"A tribute to Upstate for fighting back," Stetson head coach Tim Loesch said. "The last three sets were well contested. They won the second one and that was a wake-up call to our team that we were going to have to raise our level of play. I am proud of the girls for doing that. They really did a better job in sets three and four for fighting for every point. I was real happy with how we finished. We played well and played hard the last two sets."
The Hatters had four players in double figures in kills, including freshman Tiffany Creamer who led the way with 13 kills and a .387 attack pct. Madison Akins registered 11 kills, and Kaley Melville and Ellen Hawks chipped in 10 apiece. Hawks committed one error and hit .429 for the match.
Kayla Weller registered 43 assists.
"Kayla did a really good job of getting our hitters one-on-one, of finding the hot hitters, of moving the ball around, and keeping the defense guessing," Loesch said. "Our hitters went up and made good choices, and I was real happy with how our hitters stayed aggressive throughout the day."
The Hatters also benefitted from a season-high 15 blocks, which, like the kill totals, was spread throughout the line-up. Hawks and fellow middle Erika White assisted on seven blocks each, while Creamer tallied six and Akins added three. Melville recorded a key solo block in the fourth set as well.
"Our team blocked phenomenally today," Hawks said. "Everyone came out with an aggressive mindset, and they were going after it on the end. It was real incredible and so exciting for our team to come together and get that many blocks, especially heading into (Saturday's) game."
Defensively, Michelle Kastner registered 18 digs and Melville added 14 for her ninth double-double of the season.
Stetson can sew up its first conference tournament berth since 1995 when the Hatters host ETSU at 5 p.m. Saturday. Seniors Hawks and Melville will be honored before the match.
"There is a lot at stake, the girls want to play well for our seniors, but also for our team goals," Loesch said. "Some of those are still within reach. To do that, we need to beat ETSU (Saturday). If they follow the game plan and execute like they did today, they are going to have a good shot at doing it."
Notes: The Hatters will clinch a postseason spot with either one win in its final five matches or a combination of two losses between Kennesaw State and UNF ... The Hatters improved to 11-2 at home, 16-1 when winning set one, and 15-2 when hitting over .200 ... Melville has recorded 36 career double-doubles, and she has two this season against USC Upstate ... The attendance was a season-high 375.