Bobcats sweep Erskine, punch ticket to NCAA Tournament

Box score

BANNER ELK, N.C. --- Senior Whitney Justice (Connelly Springs, N.C.) posted a match-high nine kills, and Dana Oliver (Davie, Fla.) recorded 12 digs to lead the top-seeded Lees-McRae College women's volleyball team to a three-set sweep of second-seeded Erskine College in the championship match of the 2010 Conference Carolinas Tournament on Sunday.

Lees-McRae (25-7) won the match by scores of 25-21, 25-23, and 25-12 to punch the program's 12th ticket to the NCAA Division II women's volleyball championship in the last 13 years, while also capturing the 12th Conference Carolinas Tournament championship in school history. The Bobcats posted a solid .235 hitting percentage in the match, while also tallying seven blocks and holding the Flying Fleet (20-11) to a .063 clip on the attack.

Justice posted a match-high nine kills, along with a sterling .412 hitting percentage, to earn Tournament MVP honors. Megan Epperson (St. John, Ind.) and Taylor Clendenin (Statesville, N.C.) tallied seven and six kills, respectively, while Megan Mitchell (Minden, Nev.) chipped in five kills and 26 assists. Oliver and Lauren Fox (Garland, Texas) recorded match-highs of 12 digs and four blocks.

Lauren Stewart (Hartwell, Ga.) led the way for the Flying Fleet with nine kills, while Sandra Campbell (Pilot Point, Texas) and Mary Crawford James (Mount Pleasant, S.C.) chipped in eight and six kills, respectively. Larz Chabra (Mount Pleasant, S.C.) posted a match-high 28 assists, while Jamie Murray (Hermann, Mo.) and Alison Albers (Goodhue, Minn.) chipped four and three blocks, respectively.

Justice, Mitchell, and Epperson each earned a spot on the All-Tournament team, while Erskine's Chabra and Albers represented the Flying Fleet. Barton's Melissa Ritter (Wescosville, Pa.) and Queens' Brittney Barren (Ham Lake, Minn.) rounded out the All-Tournament performers.

The two teams battled back and forth in the first set, with Lees-McRae opening an early 7-2 lead before Erskine countered with a 7-2 spurt of its own to even the score at 9-9. After a pair of quick points by the Bobcats and an answering marker by the Flying Fleet, LMC launched a 5-0 spurt to take a 16-10 lead on an Erskine miscue.

Lees-McRae would extend the lead to 21-12 on back-to-back service aces from Mitchell before Erskine answered, launching a 9-3 spurt to cut the margin to 24-21 on an ace from Julie Jackson (Greenville, S.C.). The Bobcats then took the set on an Erskine attack error to claim an early 1-0 lead in the match.

The second set started in much the same fashion as the first, with neither team able to claim a significant lead until, with the score at 14-13 in favor of Lees-McRae, the Bobcats launched a 6-3 spurt to claim a 20-16 margin on a kill from Clendenin. The Bobcats would stretch the margin to 24-18 before Erskine responded with a valiant effort, overcoming five set points to close the gap to 24-23. Mitchell then delivered the deciding point, placing a perfect dump into the center of the Erskine court to give LMC a commanding 2-0 lead in the match.

Lees-McRae carried the momentum into the third set, opening the frame with a 13-3 run that was capped by an emphatic kill from Fox. Erskine would clip the margin to 14-6 on a pair of LMC miscues before the Bobcats regained control, launching a 6-2 run to open a 20-8 lead. The Bobcats then tallied five of the final nine points of the set to claim the set, match, and tournament title on a kill by Clendenin.

The Bobcats now await the announcement of the 64-team field that will compete for the 2010 NCAA Division II women's volleyball national championship, having secured a spot in the field by claiming the automatic bid from Conference Carolinas. The field will be announced via webcast on NCAA.com tonight at 10 p.m.

- LMC -

2010 Conference Carolinas All-Tournament Team

Melissa Ritter, Barton
Brittney Barren, Queens (N.C.)
Larz Chabra, Erskine
Alison Albers, Erskine
Megan Mitchell, Lees-McRae
Megan Epperson, Lees-McRae
Whitney Justice, Lees-McRae

Tournament MVP: Whitney Justice