BARBOURVILLE, Ky. – The Union College volleyball team had much to celebrate Tuesday as the Bulldogs honored their four seniors and locked up the 2016 Appalachian Athletic Conference championship (AAC) with a 3-0 sweep of visiting Montreat (N.C.).
The 25-7, 25-13, 25-22 victory guaranteed Union at least a share of the conference title, but coupled with a 3-2 loss by Milligan (Tenn.) at Columbia (S.C.), Union is the outright champion. In addition to locking up the No. 1 seed for next week's conference tournament, the Bulldogs also receive an automatic berth to the NAIA National Championship Opening Round.
"First off, I am excited how well our team played focused tonight and grabbed an early lead by executing our game plan and playing smart," said Union coach Jeremy Wise. "Secondly I am proud of how hard they worked to put us into this position to claim a share of conference title, which just became an outright championship after the other scores came in tonight. Maintaining this level of play in the conference has been tough this year as the league as a whole has become much stronger."
This is the fourth regular-season championship in program history as the Bulldogs also won the crown in 2007, 2009 and 2011.
Prior to the match, Union recognized its four seniors – Ivana Kazic (SR/Belgrade, Serbia), Vanessa Ross (SR/Corbin, Ky.), Julia Edmonds (SR/Burlington, Ky.) and student assistant Anagila Silva. And the seniors went out with a bang.
Kazic registered 13 assists, five digs and two assists, while Edmonds recorded a season high for blocks in a three-set match with 8.0. to go with her five kills. Ross notched two kills to go with a season-high 5.0 blocks.
The Bulldogs dominated the net in posting 34 kills with a 0.329 hitting percentage and 12.0 total team blocks. Five different players collected at least 3.0 blocks on the night.
Union came out on fire in the opening set, leading by as much as 18 points en route to the 25-7 set win.
The Bulldogs continued their hot play in set two. While Montreat attempted to stay close, Union steadily added its lead and closed the frame on an 11-4 stretch to lock up the 25-13 decision. During the final decisive stretch, Union benefited from eight Montreat errors – five attack errors, two ball-handling errors and one service error.
The third set ended up closer than expected as Montreat fought off match point with a 7-0 run. However, a kill by Jillian Stuff (JR/Marengo, Ohio) sealed the 25-22 set win and the 3-0 match victory.
Marissa Elam (JR/Muncie, Ind.) and Rachel Andrews (JR/Louisville, Ky. ) led Union with nine kills apiece. Elam also registered her 1,000th kill in her career and now sits at 1,004.
Edmonds hit a milestone as well, notching her 400th career block as she now has 405 to date.
Union concludes the regular season at 29-9 overall and 20-2 in AAC play. The Bulldogs return to action on Nov. 10 in the AAC Tournament. The pairings will be announced on Sunday.