Nov. 20, 2009

Courtesy of Wingate Athletics

WINGATE, N.C. - The defending NCAA Division II Southeast Region champion Armstrong Atlantic State University Pirates began their title defense in impressive fashion, sweeping the Railsplitters of Lincoln Memorial University 3-0 in quarterfinal action Friday afternoon in Cuddy Arena. The third-seeded Pirates won by scores of 25-12, 25-17 and 25-22 to improve to 27-9 on the year. AASU advances to the semifinals Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. The sixth-seeded Railsplitters finish the season 22-10 overall.

Peach Belt Conference Freshman of the Year Kathrin Strandhardinger (Munich, Germany) led the Pirates with 12 kills and four blocks, while hitting .611 - she was a perfect eight kills in eight attempts through the first two sets. Senior outside hitter Marina Marinova (Sofia, Bulgaria) added 10 kills and 11 digs, while senior middle hitter Michele Remlinger (Kalida, Ohio) chipped in with nine kills and a .333 hitting percentage.

AASU freshman setter Kristin Strandhardinger (Munich, Germany) handed out 40 assists to go with 15 digs and three blocks. Sophomore libero Casey Howett (Brooks, Ga.) added a match-high 21 digs, becoming just the second player in AASU history to record 500+ digs in one season with 506.

Junior middle blocker Kodi Cartwright (Layton, Utah) led the LMU attack with seven kills and six blocks. Senior middle blocker Alison Hess (Dayton, Ohio) added five kills for the Railsplitters. Junior outside hitter Lauren Kiwacka (Tipp City, Ohio) had 14 assists, nine digs and four kills, while senior libero Alicia MacIntyre (Muncie, Ind.) collected 14 digs.

The Pirates used an impressive 9-0 run to jump out to an 18-6 lead in the first set. Kathrin Strandhardinger fueled the spurt with three kills. A kill from sophomore outside hitter Torrie Bevolo (St. Louis, Mo.) made it 21-8. The advantage would not go below 12 the rest of the way, with Marinova capping the frame with a kill. The Pirates hit .250 in the opening set, while LMU hit negative .065.

An ace from Marinova gave the Pirates a 13-10 lead in the second set. A kill from Cartwright cut the deficit to 14-13. AASU responded by scoring five of the next six points to take a 19-14 lead, capped by a Marinova kill. The Pirates extended the lead to seven at 23-16 on another Marinova kill. Junior outside hitter Brendyce Budd (Page, Ariz.) finished the set with a kill.

The third set would be tightly contested, with nine ties and two lead changes. Armstrong Atlantic State used a 4-0 run to take a 16-12 lead, thanks to a kill and a block from Kathrin Strandhardinger. Back-to-back blocks from the Strandhardinger sisters pushed the AASU lead to 19-13. The Railsplitters responded with a 5-0 run to cut the advantage to one at 19-18. Hess and Kiwacka got the spurt started with a block, while freshman defensive specialist Kristen Cantrell (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) capped it with an ace.

The Pirates took a 22-19 lead on a Marinova kill. Cartwright answered with a kill and a block to again cut the deficit to one at 22-21. With a 23-22 lead, the Pirates got a kill from Remlinger to make it 24-22. An LMU error finished the match.

AASU hit .220 for the match, collecting 44 kills against 18 errors in 118 attacks. The Railsplitters had 24 kills against 23 errors for a .008 hitting percentage.

The Pirates advance to Saturday's regional semi-final contest. AASU will take on the winner of the Flagler vs. Lees-McRae match. Match time Saturday is slated for 4:30 p.m.