Nashville, Tenn. - USC Upstate did not look like a team that was competing in its first-ever postseason match in Lipscomb's Allen Arena on Thursday. The Spartans and North Florida conducted the first episode of the 2016 ASUN Volleyball Conference Championship, with USC Upstate taking the decision in four sets.
North Florida took the early lead of the first, outhitting USC Upstate by a margin of .154 to .231 through the first half to give the No. 4 seed the 13-12 advantage. ASUN Freshman of the Year Gabby O'Connell hit five kills through the course of the opening frame but it would not be enough for the Ospreys with Upstate taking the decision by a score of 25-21. Sophomore Madison Haake would assist on the first 13 USC Upstate kills finishing the set with 14.
In the early stages of frame two, USC Upstate found themselves behind, this time by a score of 6-3. An out of bounds ball played close to the touchline would spark a four-point run for USC Upstate, to give the Spartans a 7-6 lead and force an Osprey timeout. It was a back and forth set with both squads holding leads. It would be the Spartans' play at the final stretch of the period that separated the two however. Again trailing by a score of 21-18, Upstate scored seven of the contest's next nine points to win 25-23. Callie Yeargin of USC Ustate scored seven kills in the second to give her a total of 11 through two.
After two sets the ASUN's leader in blocks, North Florida, held just two blocks as a team to the Spartans' margin of three. The Ospreys got back to basics however, as Morgan Van Alstine and Madilyn McCarty each recorded two blocks on the frame. UNF ultimately out-killed the Spartans 18-9, and force a fourth period. Less than halfway through the third set Upstate's Madison Haake earned her 22nd double-double of the season after digging her 10th ball of the match.
USC Upstate came out firing in what would be the fourth and final period. The Spartans jumped out to a 5-2 thanks to three quick kills from Emily Koelling, but fell behind for the fourth period in a row by a score of 10-7. With six Spartans scoring two or more kills in the third USC Upstate again overcame its deficit to take the frame and the match.
With their win the Spartans will face No. 1 seed Lipscomb in Friday's first match of the day. The two squads will faceoff in Nashville at 5 PM CT and can be watched on ESPN3.
No. 4 North Florida vs. No. 5 USC Upstate First Round Notes
- Upstate's Madison Haake fell four kills short of her third triple-double this season with 47 helpers, 16 digs and six kills.
- The Spartans won tonight's match despite recording a lower hitting percentage and scoring less kills than the Ospreys.
- This is North Florida's third-consecutive year losing in the first round of the ASUN Volleyball Conference Championship.
- USC Upstate libero Kaleigh Kelley dug up 32 balls on the night for her fourth 30-plus performance of the season, she is the only player in the ASUN with more than two.
- UNF's Kimberly Ferguson recorded a match-high for all ASUN players this season with a tally of 36 digs