Flagler cruises into regional final
No. 2 seed Saints win 14th consecutive match past Armstrong
WINGATE, N.C. -- Second-seeded and 24th-ranked Flagler swept No. 21 Armstrong Atlantic in regional semifinal action of the 2011 NCAA Southeast regional Saturday afternoon in Cuddy Arena.
Flagler won by scores of 25-19, 29-27 and 25-14 to improve to 30-6 overall, winning its 14th consecutive match while reaching the regional title match for the third consecutive year. Armstrong ends its season at 36-3 overall.
Junior outside hitter Dianna Craine had 11 kills, 10 digs and five blocks, hitting .435 on the afternoon to lead the Flagler attack. Sophomore right-side hitter Sophie Meyer added 11 kills with a .450 hitting percentage, while sophomore outside hitter Emilee Taylor had nine kills and seven digs for the Saints. Senior setter Olivia Snipes had 38 assists, while junior libero Casey Gnann collected 19 digs.
Junior outside hitter Amanda Jones had 13 kills to lead the Armstrong Atlantic attack. Sophomore outside hitter Jessica Santaniello added 10 kills and 10 digs for the Pirates, while senior outside hitter Brendyce Budd had eight kills and a team-best 12 digs.
Junior setter Ashley Seal handed out 34 assists for the Pirates.Flagler used a 7-0 run to take a 12-4 lead in the opening frame, getting two kills each from Taylor and Craine in the spurt. Three consecutive Flagler errors trimmed the lead to three at 15-12. A pair of Armstrong errors, along with a kill from junior middle blocker Crystal Niederriter pushed the advantage back to seven at 21-14. The Pirates would get no closer than five the rest of the way, with a Taylor kill capping the set. Flagler hit .382 in the opening frame.
The second set was tight throughout, featuring 14 ties and seven lead changes. A kill from Jones gave Armstrong a 16-13 advantage. The Saints answered by scoring the next four points, getting two aces from Meyer along with an Armstrong error to take a 17-16 lead. The Pirates answered, using a 3-0 run to take a 24-22 lead. Jones started the flurry with a kill, while two Flagler errors capped it. A Meyer kill and Armstrong error tied it at 24. The teams would then trade points, with the Pirates taking a 27-26 lead to serve for the set once again. A Craine kill tied the set at 27, while a block from Craine put Flagler up by one. The Saints went to Craine again, who capped the second frame with a kill to give Flagler a 2-0 lead.
A 7-0 run helped the Saints jump out to a 14-6 lead in the third set, capped by back-to-back Craine blocks. The Pirates would never get closer than seven the rest of the way. A Meyer kill, along with two kills from junior middle blocker Rachel Stacy made it 22-10. Niederriter capped the match with a kill, sending Flagler to their third consecutive regional championship match. Flagler hit .423 in the final set, with 15 kills in 26 swings.
The Saints hit .303 on the match, with 46 kills and 13 errors in 109 attacks. The Pirates had 40 kills and 21 errors in 121 attacks, hitting .157 for the match. Taylor had three of Flagler’s seven aces on the day.
Flagler advances to the regional championship match for the third time in as many years. The Saints defeated Wingate 3-1 in 2009 to win the regional title, advancing all the way to the NCAA semifinals. The Saints lost 3-0 in the championship match in 2010 to Wingate. The Saints will take on Wingate at Cuddy Arena.