Cougars Win Thriller Over Appalachian State In SoCon Semis
The Cougars (25-9) reached 25 wins for the fourth time in head coach Jason Kepner's five seasons at CofC. Appalachian State's season ended with a record of 21-11.
Four different hit players tallied double digits in kills for Charleston led by 14 from SoCon Freshman of the Year Sloane White. The native of Indianapolis, Ind., hit a team-best .303 for the match while also making eight digs. Senior Sarah Havel tallied 11 kills and six blocks while classmate Elyse Chubb had 10 kills and three blocks, including the eventual game-winner. Freshman Lizzie Theesfeld also registered 10 kills and 11 digs.
Defensively, redshirt-junior Emily Shelton and senior Hayley Harrell made numerous digs on strong ASU swings to keeps rallies alive. Shelton finished with 20 digs and Harrell tallied 14 for her second-straight double digit performance. Freshman Andi Zbojniewicz tied her career high with four service aces.
The win was not the Cougars' prettiest performance as the team hit just .186, but College of Charleston made the plays when it counted in late-game situations. Appalachian State tallied 15 more kills and hit for .209 but could not pull out sets in the end.
"I'm so proud of this team and excited for us to make it back to the championship match," head coach Jason Kepner said. "We battled extremely hard against a very good Appalachian State team. We made enough plays to take the victory and I'm just so excited for this group. I hope that this year we can put ourselves in a position to be successful in the title game."
The Mountaineers were led by Maggie Seeds who tallied 20 kills, followed by Anna Wagner's 15 kills. The Rheins also played well as Kelly made 13 kills and Courtney tallied 29 digs.
Both teams struggled to put together accurate hitting in the first set as they each hit under .100. The Mountaineers led by three at 14-11 before the Cougars went on a run on Zbojniewicz's serve, winning five straight points which included two aces. Neither team would lead by more than two points for the rest of the set as both sides made plays to side out. With the Cougars trailing 22-21, Havel made a kill on the right and a block to put the Cougars up 23-22. A kill from White gave CofC set point, but Alison Blasingame tied the set at 24. White gave the Cougars yet another lead with a kill and an error from Seeds ended the set for College of Charleston, 26-24.
Appalachian State opened a 3-0 lead in the second set and never trailed for the duration, despite the Cougars forcing three ties and never trailing by more than four. After a Mountaineer attack error tied it at 19, ASU's Maggie Seeds and Blasingame landed kills on each side of a White attack error to build a 22-19 lead. Chubb pulled the Cougars to within 23-21, but a Theesfeld service error and an ace from Seeds gave the Mountaineers a 25-21 set win.
The Cougars found themselves trailing at the outset of the third set yet again after ASU jumped out to a 9-4 lead. However, the Cougars won the next five points to tie the set at nine. The Mountaineers jumped back out to a 16-13 lead, but College of Charleston responded again to lead 18-16 after three ASU errors. The Cougars did not trail for the rest of the set as the combination of Havel, White and Chubb combined for six points and the Cougars won the set, 25-22. Havel finished with five kills and two blocks in the third game, hitting .455.
The fourth set featured more runs for each squad as both teams started to score points in bunches. College of Charleston led 7-4 early on but App State rallied to tie it at nine. The Cougars went on another five point run to turn a 13-12 deficit into a 17-13 lead, but again Appalachian answered by tying the set at 18 off a kill from Lauren Gray. A bang-bang play with the set tied at 23 resulted in an ASU point to set up game point. White came up big for the Cougars with a strong swing on the right side that fell in for the tying point. Seeds and Theesfeld traded kills to tie the set at 25, but Seeds hit the net on the next play to give College of Charleston set point. With her career on the line, Chubb wound up for one final swing that ricocheted off a Mountaineer and the Cougars celebrated on the court.
College of Charleston will face north division champion Samford in the SoCon title game on ESPN3 at 7 p.m. ET on Monday night.