LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- UAFS continued its improbable run through the NCAA Division II national tournament on Thursday, rallying from a first-set loss to beat New Haven in four sets in the final quarterfinal match at Knights Hall in Louisville, Kentucky.
UAFS won the match 31-33, 25-17, 25-10, 25-23 to advance to Friday's semifinals, where it will play Tampa at 4:30 p.m. It will be the first semifinal appearance for the Lady Lions (29-4).Grand Valley State will play Southwest Minnesota State at 2 p.m. in the other semifinal match. The championship match will be at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
A historical postseason of firsts continues for UAFS, which is in the midst of only its fourth season as an active NCAA Division II member.
The Lady Lions won their first national tournament match in three tries by upsetting Colorado Mines in the first round of South Central Region play. They advanced to their first regional title match by beating Tarleton State and won their first region title by upsetting Colorado-Mesa in four sets on its home court.
UAFS, which was the only representative from the Heartland Conference to earn a bid to the national tournament, was one of only two No. 7 seeds to advance to the quarterfinals. It joined New Haven (a No. 2 seed), Southwest Minnesota (a No. 3 seed), Sonoma State (a No. 7 seed), Wingate (a No. 1 seed), Grand Valley State (a No. 3 seed), Wheeling Jesuit (a No. 3 seed) and Tampa (a No. 1 seed).
The Lady Lions also are the first UAFS team to not only win a region championship at the Division II level but also advance this deep in the tournament.
UAFS compiled a 0.220 hitting percentage against New Haven, a No. 2 seed that won the East Region, with 62 kills on 191 attempts with 20 errors. Sophomore outside hitter Katarina Krstonosic led the Lady Lions with 18 kills, while senior outside hitter Michelle Walker and senior middle hitter Jessica Anderson had 13 and 12 kills, respectively.
Freshman setter Bailey Katzfey recorded 50 assists. She and Krstonosic each served three of UAFS' eight aces.
Defensively, New Haven had 90 digs with Kea-Marie Olaso leading the team with 35 digs. The Chargers (24-9) had nine total blocks. Ashley Dalton led the team with 3.5 total blocks.
The Lady Lions held the Chargers to a paltry 0.120 hitting percentage with 49 kills on 192 attempts with 26 errors. Kristy Atufunwa led the Chargers with 12 kills and was the only New Haven player with double-digit kills.
Setter Kaulana Ane led the Chargers with 39 assists. The Chargers served only two aces.
UAFS had 108 digs with sophomore libero Emily Tripp lead the team with 31 digs. Katzfey and Krstonosic had 20 digs apiece. The Lady Lions collected 10 total blocks with Walker and junior right-side hitter Abby Phillips each had three total blocks.