FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Saint Leo volleyball team made history once again this season as they claimed the program's first outright Sunshine State Conference Championship with a 3-0; 28-26, 25-21, 25-22 sweep of Nova Southeastern on Friday evening in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
The first moment of history this season was sweeping SSC foe Tampa, the perennial conference power, for the first time in program history. This sweep gave the Lions the advantage in a tie-break situation, which proved to be vital as both the Lions and the Spartans found themselves tied atop the SSC standings heading into the final weekend of play where both teams would play Nova Southeastern and Palm Beach Atlantic. With PBA being a provisional member, that match was out of the mix.
With the Lions playing NSU first, they held their fate in their hands.
In the opening set, neither team could find their offense. With a 20-20 score, the Lions called the first timeout of the set, with the Lions hitting .041, while the Sharks were hitting .000. Saint Leo was forced to call their second timeout of the set, down 23-21. At 24-21, the Lions subbed in freshman Anna Garrett, and that stall tactic caused the Sharks into a service error. That followed with a massive kill from Britt Sederholm, forcing the Sharks to call a time out. The Lions tallied off two more points to take a 25-24 lead, and Nova used their second timeout. From there the set continued into extra points, until an ace from Reggie Van Devender put the win in the Lions favor, 28-26.
The offense for the Lions turned around in the second set as they opened with an 11-6 lead, putting down eight kills on .316 hitting of those 11 points. Sederholm was a huge part of that, putting down four of the eight kills, and added two service aces within that run. The Lions continued to build off Sederholm's momentum as it rubbed off on to fellow outside Hope Lemon and both were locked in dishing out both aces and kills. Nova dealt out three straight aces to cut the score to 21-16. The four-point Shark run was ended on a Sederholm kill. From there, the two squads battled, trading points until a huge block by Lemon gave the Lions a 24-21 lead. Van Devender was back on the line to serve on set point once again. This time her serve resulted in a tight pass by the Sharks, forcing setter Katie Pyles to attack, and she was shut down by the block of Annabella Arcari for the 25-21 win.
The Sharks continued to battle in the third set, doing their best to hold off the Lions. Saint Leo took a 17-10 lead, but the Sharks continued to bite away at the score and took a 19-18 lead. A Nova service error would tie it back up at 19-19, and a timely block from Sederholm and Adamson, followed by a kill from Garrett, gave the Lions a 21-19 lead. Once again the Sharks tied the set up at 22, but their seventh service error of the match gave the Lions a 23-22 lead. In the final two points, freshman Annabella Arcari made two crucial plays. The middle blocker dished out a scramble play assist to Lemon, who put it away to bring it to match point. Arcari then put down the kill to take the match, as the Lions won 25-22.
Sederholm and Lemon both registered double-doubles on the day. Both put down 14 kills, while Sederholm scooped up 12 digs and Lemon snagged 10. Both also dished out two aces. Both Adamson and Victoria Omoregie added six kills and two blocks on the day.
Freshman Anna Garrett came in at the end of the first set and finished with 31 assists and eight digs.
Defensively, Jamee Townsend tallied 22 digs and added six assists and two aces on the evening. Arcari finished the match with four kills, a team-high five blocks, three digs, and one assist.
With the win, the Lions moved to 20-10, 12-4 in conference play. This marks the first season since 2004 that Tampa has not won or held a share of the title. Barry won the SSC outright in 2004.
In 2009, the Lions went 15-1, but due to splitting with Tampa during the conference play, the two were named SSC Co-Champions.
The Lions play No. 10 Palm Beach Atlantic on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. in a crucial South Region match. The Lions are the No. 2 seed in the South as of the final NCAA Regional Poll release, and the Sailfish are the No. 1 seed.
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