Dec. 4, 2009

D-II Sidebar: Skoch, As In Coach

By Judd Spicer
Special to NCAA.com

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- It's a good thing All-American outside hitter Laura Prinsen goes to school in Texas. In many states, the rifle that poses as her left arm would be illegal.

After a measured quarterfinal performance in West Texas A&M's four-set win over California (Pa.) in which her stat sheet offered only 10 kills and an .051 hit percentage, Prinsen rocked 19 kills (.432 hit percentage) and added 18 digs as the No. 5 Lady Buffs moved past plucky Flagler College on Friday to advance to the national championship game Saturday night. The Lady Buffs topped Flagler in four sets 25-17, 22-25, 25-18, 27-25.  

Flagler led 25-24 with service in the fourth set before A&M took the final three points and the match.     

"It's just knowing that I had to be more aggressive tonight," Prinsen said. "It's just being more confident in myself to go for anything. Playing defensive all the time won't win it for you."

Flagler (36-9), of St. Augustine, Fla., entered the match having won 29 straight matches, the second-longest active steak in D-II. The tournament marked the Saints' first NCAA appearance in just the program's second NCAA year since transitioning from NAIA. The Saints were the only Elite Eight team that was neither ranked nor received any votes by the AVCA.  

Flagler was led by freshman middle blocker Rachel Stacy, who set a career high with 21 kills. Her previous best had been 12, achieved four times over the course of the season. Junior Meg Weathersby added 16 kills and 14 digs in the loss.

"I thought the girls played amazing," Saints coach Taylor Mott said. "We played as hard as we could. This wasn't our best match, statistically, by any means, but West Texas always kept us on our toes.  They put pressure on us for every play and played really aggressive.

"I think this means a tremendous amount to our program. We talked all weekend about our transition from NAIA. I think it's remarkable that we came this far in so short a time. It's been a great experience. With us being here for the first time and not really knowing what to expect, we just played and didn't feel any pressure. We just enjoyed every minute of it -- and we made snow angels earlier in the day."

West Texas A&M is making its fifth consecutive NCAA appearance and is led by first-year coach Jason Skoch, who made the D-II semifinals last season with his team at Truman State, where he coached from 2005-08. The Lady Buffs' victory ascends the program to their fourth D-II championship game. West Texas made previous title appearances in 1990, 1991 and 1997, grabbing the title each year.  

"This is what we've been wanting every year," Prinsen said. "The last two years we lost in the semifinals. To actually make it to the finals is a big step for us."