KINGSPORT, Tenn. – For the fourth year in a row, the Union College volleyball team is headed back to the Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC) Tournament championship match following a 3-0 sweep of fifth-seeded Tennessee Wesleyan on Friday.
"I'm happy we were able to stay focused and execute our game plan," said Union head coach Jeremy Wise. "They pushed us a few times, and we responded each time with smart play and fight. I'm glad to get the sweep and return to the finals."
The tournament is being held at the MeadowView Marriott Convention Center & Conference Resort in Kingsport, Tenn.
Union (31-9 overall) is seeking its third consecutive conference tournament championship. The Bulldogs advanced to the title match in 2013 but lost. However, Union collected titles in 2014 and 2015.
Once again, Rachel Andrews (JR/Louisville, Ky. ) dominated the net for the Bulldogs as she hammered home 13 kills and recorded three total blocks. Marissa Elam (JR/Muncie, Ind.) followed with eight kills, while Maddie Jergesen (FR/Carson City, Nev.) and Jenna Nelson (JR/Florence, Ky. ) each recorded seven. Jergesen also had three total blocks.
Union, the tournament's top seed, came out strong and was never really threatened throughout the match. Tennessee Wesleyan held the lead only twice, 1-0 to start the second set and 2-0 to begin the third.
Using an 11-4 stretch in the opening frame, Union opened up a 21-10 cushion. Tennessee Wesleyan tried to rally but could not get the margin closer than eight before Union closed out the 25-16 set win.
Play was a little tighter in the second. Yet, a 6-0 run to close the set turned a 19-18 lead into a 25-18 victory for a 2-0 match lead. During the decisive run, four different Bulldogs recorded kills.
In the third, Union's lead never grew larger than five points. Tennessee Wesleyan (16-19 overall) pulled within 21-20 following a Olivia Fisher ace. Union responded once more with a 4-2 spurt collect the win. Elam delivered the final blow with a kill to lock up the 25-22 decision, completing the sweep.
Carson Gray (SO/Alexandria, Ky.) finished with 22 assists with Ivana Kazic (SR/Belgrade, Serbia) helping out with 14.
Paulina Hileman (JR/Johnstown, Colo.) notched 20 digs in the win, giving her 706 on the season. This marks only the sixth time in program history a player has recorded 700 or more digs in a season, and Hileman is the fourth different Bulldog do so.
Union will face either No. 2 seed Milligan (Tenn.) or No. 3 seed St. Andrews for the championship on Saturday. Game time is set for 2 p.m. in Kingsport, Tenn.