Bobcats advance to tournament championship with sweep of Queens

Box score

BANNER ELK, N.C. --- Conference Carolinas Player of the Year Whitney Justice (Connelly Springs, N.C.) tallied a match-high nine kills, and Megan Epperson (St. John, Ind.) recorded a season-best five blocks to lead the top-seeded Lees-McRae College women's volleyball team to a three-set sweep of fourth-seeded Queens University of Charlotte on Friday in the semifinal round of the Conference Carolinas Tournament.

Lees-McRae (24-7) won the match by scores of 25-21, 25-21, and 25-22, holding the Royals (20-10) to a 0.16 hitting percentage. Justice led a balanced Bobcat attack with nine kills, recording a .421 hitting percentage, while Epperson tallied five kills, including the 1,000th of her career. Megan Mitchell (Minden, Nev.), Taylor Clendenin (Statesville, N.C.), and Lauren Fox (Garland, Texas) each notched four kills, while Dana Oliver (Davie, Fla.) tallied a match-high 12 digs.

Mitchell recorded a match-high 22 assists, while Clendenin and Epperson posted 11 and nine digs, respectively. Epperson and Justice led the way with five and four blocks, respectively, while Chloe Casas (Plano, Texas) posted three service aces.

Keri Kemp (Lake Mary, Fla.) paced the Royals with eight kills, while Brittney Barren (Ham Lake, Minn.), Brittany Harvey (Matthews, N.C.) and Anna Gibbs (Hickory, N.C.) tallied six, five and five kills respectively. Avery Moore (Arlington, Texas) chipped in 21 assists, while Barren posted a team-high nine digs. Moore, Alexa Sparrell (Winter Park, Fla.), Jocelyn Kellinger (Roanoke, Va.), and Sarah Malpass (Gainesville, Fla.) each tallied eight digs.

Lees-McRae opened the first set with a 5-1 run, including Epperson's 1,000th career kill, before Queens responded with a 7-2 spurt to take an 8-7 lead on back-to-back service aces by Barren. The Bobcats would answer with an 8-3 run of their own, taking a 15-11 lead on a kill from Justice before Queens evened the score at 16-16 with a 5-1 spurt. Lees-McRae quickly regained control, taking a 22-19 lead on the heels of a 6-3 run before closing out the 25-21 first-set win on a Queens miscue.

The Bobcats would carry the momentum into the second set, opening the frame with a 9-1 run before Queens could answer, rallying to cut the margin to 9-5 with a quick 4-0 spurt. Queens continued to press the attack, cutting the lead to 14-11 on a kill by Barren. Lees-McRae would answer, stretching the margin to 18-11 with a 4-0 spurt before Queens responded, going on a 5-0 run of its own to trim the advantage to 18-16.

Lees-McRae refused to cede control, pushing the lead to 24-20 with a 6-4 spurt before Clendenin knocked in a kill to cap a 25-21 second set win, and give the Bobcats a commanding 2-0 lead in the match. Queens would answer in the third frame, opening the set with a 4-0 run before Lees-McRae responded with a 5-1 spurt of its own, taking an early 6-5 advantage on a kill by Epperson.

The two teams would battle throughout much of the remaining portion of the set, with neither side gaining more than a two-point advantage until, with the score standing at 19-18 in favor of LMC, the Bobcats launched a 3-0 spurt to take a 22-18 lead on back-to-back service aces from Casas.

Queens would rally, answering with a 4-0 spurt of its own to even the score at 22-22 on three-straight kills from Ashlyn Dibrell (Arlington, Texas). Lees-McRae refused to cede momentum, answering with a 3-0 spurt to claim the set and the match on a kill by Clendenin.

Lees-McRae returns to the court on Sunday when the top-seeded Bobcats host second-seeded Erskine College in the championship match of the 2010 Conference Carolinas Tournament. The match is slated for 2 p.m. in Williams Gymnasium. The LMC athletic department will host a Green Out for the match, and encourages all Bobcat fans to wear green to the contest.

- LMC -