Nov. 22, 2008

WINGATE, N.C. - The third-seeded Armstrong Atlantic State volleyball squad advanced to its first-ever NCAA Division II Volleyball Regional final with a 3-2 win over sixth-seeded Lincoln Memorial on Saturday evening in the Southeast regional, hosted by Wingate in Cuddy Arena. Game scores were: 28-26, 25-18, 24-26, 24-26, 15-6.

AASU is just the third Peach Belt Conference school to advance to the regional final, and the first since North Florida in 2004. No Peach Belt team has ever advanced to the NCAA Volleyball Elite Eight. The Pirates will have that opportunity on Sunday evening at 7:00 p.m. against either the top-seeded and host Wingate or fourth-seeded Catawba.

"For being the first time [in the region final], it's a great thing for the players," AASU head coach Will Condon said. "They've worked very hard to get this point - and I think they've earned it, especially in these last two matches."

The match was filled with individual highlights as Pirate senior Rindy Vidovich became just the sixth player in AASU history to record her 1,000th career kill, and sophomore setter Hannah Segebart set a career high in assists on a second straight night with 71.

It was a second straight tight five-game affair in regional action for the Pirates, as three of the five games were decided by just two points. AASU looked like they would close out game one, leading 24-21, but LMU got two kills from Amanda Horenkamp and a service ace from Ashley Knight to tie things up at 24-24. Gwen Clarke and Michele Remlinger picked up back-to-back kills at 26-all to give AASU the game.

In game two, AASU jumped out to a 9-2 lead, and eventually stretched that lead to 20-12 before closing out the game with a 25-18 win. The Pirates got six kills from Gwen Clarke and hit .364 in the game to take the commanding 2-0 advantage.

The Pirates had a golden opportunity to put away the match in the third game. With the score tied at 19-all, Vidovich picked up the Pirates' next two kills to give AASU a 21-19 advantage. At 24-23, Torrie Bevolo's angle attack was called just out, keeping the Railsplitters in the match. Lincoln Memorial took advantage, blocking the next two Pirate attacks to force a game four, 26-24. Nine errors contributed to the Pirates' demise in game three as they hit just .156.

Game four saw attacking errors plague the Pirates again as they had nine, hitting just .176 in dropping game four, 26-24. But in game five, the Pirates left little doubt, jumping out to a quick 10-3 lead and closing out the match, 15-6, hitting .370 with 11 kills and just error. Vidovich picked up her 1,000th career kill in the fifth game, at 2-all, becoming the first player to reach the 1,000 kill plateau since Traci Knuth in 2006.

"I think both teams had their opportunities thorughout the entire match," Condon said. "We just didn't make plays [in game 3 and 4] and they did. I told them before game five that we've been the first team to 15 in every game - and now we're paying to 15, not to 25.

"That eased the tension a little bit. I think game five is always about who wants it the most, and tonight I think our players did."

Vidovich led all players on the night with 24 kills as she led a quintet of Pirates in double-figure kills. Junior Gwen Clarke hit .364 with 15 kills, while junior Michele Remlinger hit .480 with 13 kills and Bevolo also notched 13 kills. Segebart tallied her career-high 71 assists and freshman Casey Howett (24) and junior Marina Marinova (22) also recorded 20+ digs for AASU.

Lincoln Memorial was led by Horenkamp's team-high 20 kills to go with 21 digs. Ashley Knight added 11 kills, while Lauren Kiwacka notched 45 assists and Alicia MacIntyre recorded a match-high 28 digs.

The Pirates hit .250 for the match and notched 76 kills, tied for the fifth-most in a five-game match in AASU history. Lincoln Memorial hit .218 and outblocked the Pirates, 7-5, but AASU recorded nine service aces and outdug the Railsplitters, 99-85.