HAMPTON, Va. -- Saint Augustine's rallied past two-time defending champ Chowan 3-2 on Sunday afternoon for its 18th CIAA championship in school history at the Boo Williams Sportsplex. It is the first championship since 2003 for the Lady Falcons, who earned the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament.

It was the second year in a row that St. Aug and Chowan met in the finals. Last year, Chowan eked out a 3-2 victory for the title. Sunday's match also went five sets but it was the Lady Falcons who were victorious this time after trailing 0-2.

Tournament MVP Keisha Parris clinched the victory with a kill for a 17-15 win in the deciding fifth set which sparked a celebration on the Lady Falcons' side of the net. The score was typical of how the match went. All of five sets were close with Lady Falcons winning 20-25, 21-25, 26-24, 25-23, 17-15.

“To see the faces of the players and coaches after we won was unbelievable,” Saint Augustine's head coach Nikki Bynum said.

Bynum led the Lady Falcons (17-17 overall) to their first CIAA title in eight years in her first year as a college coach. She carried nine players to the tournament and three of them -- rightside hitter Parris, outside hitter Kathryn Tokarski and setter Roxanne Smith -- made the All-CIAA team.

Parris amassed 20 kills, 13 digs and five assists while Tokarski added 15 kills and 18 digs. Smith added 46 assists and Brittany Hicks chipped in 13 kills in a balanced attack for the Lady Falcons, who came back from a 0-2 deficit in the five-set stunner. Chowan (26-8), the Northern Division top seed, had suffered only one CIAA loss before Sunday and were unbeaten against league teams during the regular season.

The Lady Falcons, the third seed out of the Southern Division, showed tremendous resolve during the tournament. A tiebreaker saved them from being eliminated the first day when they finished in a three-way tie in their pool.  In Saturday's semifinals, they won in three sets against Winston-Salem State, who swept them during the regular season. In the finals, the Lady Falcons were on the brink of losing after facing set point in the third game.

“I told them to remember what happened last year,” Bynum said. “And they dug in.”

The Lady Falcons fought back to tie the match at 2-2 and force a fifth set. With a championship at stake, both teams battled to the wire, but the Lady Falcons were more resilient in the end.