Monday, November 21, 2016

Alabama State Back on top of the SWAC

JACKSON, Mississippi – The Alabama State women's volleyball team returned to the top of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) by rallying back to defeat No. 2 seeded Texas Southern 3-1 (16-25, 25-17, 25-17, 25-14) at the Williams Assembly Center on the campus of Jackson State University to claim the SWAC championship for the third time in the past four seasons under head coach Penny Lucas-White.

The Lady Hornets (24-8 overall) have won 23 of their last 24 matches now including 12 consecutive matches and will now await the NCAA Selection Show next Sunday at 8 p.m. CT to discover who, when and where they'll be playing in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament that begins next Thursday, December 1.

SWAC Freshman of the Year Bayle Bennett played like a seasoned veteran, cool under pressure as she whacked a team-best 19 kills and junior Briana Dorsey added nine kills as ASU responded well after dropping the opening set.

Bennett was named SWAC Tournament MVP for her efforts.

Alabama State had to battle back from an uncharacteristic poor first set in which the team committed more errors (10) than kills (nine) for a negative .030 hitting percentage.

Dropping just their fourth total set in 21 matches against conference opponents, the Lady Hornets stormed back to take the next three sets with renewed vigor.
"They feed off my energy," said coach Lucas-White.

"Texas Southern jumped out a whole lot stronger than we had expected. We completely switched the lineup, flipped Ni'yesha [Brown] and Krysta [Medearis] with different sides and it worked. We put Asha [Daniels} back in and we settled down. It put Bayle [Bennett] up to swing and they had to contend with Bri [Dorsey] and Candace [Martin]."

Bennett was unmatched as she proved to be a problem for the Texas Southern (22-11) defense all season.

The freshman notched 12 kills in a four-set victory back on Oct. 3 against the Lady Tigers, followed that up with a 15-kill performance in a sweep at home on Nov. 5 and then saved her best for the most important match of the season by smacking a career-high 19 kills in Sunday's championship against them.

"There's only one player who plays the whole match," Lucas-White said.

"That alone speaks volume about her [Bennett's] experience because she's done that all year around. She passes excellent. It does not matter. She can pass anything. But when you talk about our stability, she's a big reason for it. The team is so fun and loose that they don't have a clue the history that they made here today."

Of course, Bennett had plenty of help.

Dorsey and Ni'yesha Brown had nine kills apiece and Krysta Medearis added another seven kills to the fold for the ASU attack.

Jamie Coleman, the lone player who has been a part of all four Alabama State teams that have reached the championship, recorded a game-high 26 digs.

It was her second highest total of the season.

"They wanted to do this for Jamie," Lucas-White said.

"The girls decided in the locker room that they wanted to send Jamie out on an excellent note. Jamie has nurtured and cultured and taught them. She has done everything for this team."

And, setters Justus Tuiolosega and Kori Kutsch each had 19 assists to get the offense in the right direction.

All three of the Lady Tigers' losses against conference opponents came against Alabama State.

The Lady Hornets are now one win shy of tying the all-time school record for most wins in single season.

The 2013 team won 25 games.

Coach Lucas-White's teams have now won 25, 20, 21 and 24 games in each of the past four seasons.



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