Nov. 23, 2008

Courtesy of Armstrong Atlantic State

WINGATE, N.C. - After two consecutive five-game matches, the Armstrong Atlantic State volleyball squad secured its first-ever trip to the NCAA Division II Volleyball Elite Eight in three.

But it felt like another five-game match.

The third-seeded Pirates (28-6) defeated the fourth-seeded Catawba Indians (22-11), 25-23, 29-27, 25-23, to advance to the Elite Eight, becoming the first team from the Peach Belt Conference to capture a NCAA volleyball region crown.

The Pirates will face Grand Valley State in the first round of the Elite Eight on December 4, at a site to be determined.

With the score tied at 23-all in the first game, consecutive blocks by Michele Remlinger and Gwen Clarke on Catawba's Shay Meeks gave the Pirates game one, 25-23. Bevolo and Vidovich each collected five kills apiece in the game.

The second game saw Catwaba take a 22-18 lead, but the Pirates fought back to tie it again at 23-all on a service ace by Casey Howett, then apparently won the game, 25-23, when Catawba was called out of rotation. The referee signalled a replay after a discussion with the down referee, and play continued. The Pirates appeared to win the game for a second time at 27-26, but Melissa Griffith's attack just hugged the line, and again play continued. Rindy Vidovich's kill at 28-27 finally ended the game, giving the Pirates a 2-0 lead. Vidovich collected six kills in the game, as did Gwen Clarke.

Game three was just as tight, tied at 21-all until a kill by Gwen Clarke and a service ace by Casey Howett put the Pirates up, 23-21, A Howett service error brought the Indians back to within one, but Michele Remlinger sided out to make it 24-22. Melissa Griffith's kill made it a 24-23 score, then Torrie Bevolo sent the Pirates to the Elite Eight with a kill, her team-leading 13th of the match.

"I think this match, even though it only went three games, was equally intense as the first two," head coach Will Condon said. "Each game was decided by just two points. You can't get any closer than that."

Bevolo led a balanced attack that saw four AASU players reach double digit kills in the match. Rindy Vidovich notched 12 kills, as did Gwen Clarke, and Michele Remlinger chipped in 10.

Hannah Segebart tallied 44 assists and Bevolo added 20 digs, while Casey Howett added 15 digs. Bevolo, Segebart and Vidovich were each named to the NCAA Southeast Regional All-Tournament Team.

Catwaba was led by Melissa Griffth's 15 kills, Mai Zoua Lo's 19 digs and Megan Courson's 30 assists.

The Pirates, after playing so many close games in two five-game wins over Lander and Lincoln Memorial over the last two days, used that experience to close out the close games tonight against Catawba.

"It certainly didn't hurt us," Condon said. "I think our players, no matter what was going on, weathered the storm and found a way to score the points they needed to score. I've never seen a team this intense and with this much passion and desire to finish it."

For senior Rindy Vidovich, who is the only player on the squad who was on the team when AASU last participated in the NCAA Championships (2004), this team was special.

"This team, this year; we have more passion," Vidovich said "We wanted it. There's never a time on the court when we're scared to swing, to block, to execute. Never a time when we feel like we're going to lose - there's no way. Even if we're down, we know we are going to come back."