Saturday, December 3, 2016

Alabama State Historic Season Ends at Florida in NCAA Tournament

GAINESVILLE, Florida – In a similar script to two seasons ago, the Alabama State women's volleyball team met a highly nationally-ranked Florida Gators volleyball team on their home court and lost in three sets (25-15, 25-13, 25-9) in the first round of the NCAA Division I volleyball tournament on Friday at the Lemerand Athletic Center.

For Alabama State (24-9), it was a bittersweet ending to such a historic season for the program in which it ran the table with an undefeated conference season (18-0 in regular season, won all three matches in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament).

"I do know one thing—that this loss will fuel our training in the spring for next season," said Alabama State head women's volleyball coach Penny Lucas-White.

"I hate that it ended this way—without leaving it all on the court— but when you look at our whole season, it was a wonderful journey. We enjoyed each other.

The girls grew. We have to a lot to give with six freshmen. There is a lot of promise. Jamie [Coleman] did a phenomenal job in nurturing this group this season. She challenged them and they responded extremely well. It was supposed to be a rebuilding year and we swept [our conference] so it's a great year. But, at the end of the day, we are competitors and we have some more work to do."

The Lady Hornets had some bright moments as it took short leads in the early goings of the first and third sets, but was unable to muster much of a rally past the midway part of the sets.

ASU took a 4-3 lead in the first set, but then allowed six straight points by way of three kills by the Gators, a pair of attacking errors and a service ace to fall behind 9-4.

The Lady Hornets played even to a 4-4 tie in the second set before dropping eight of the next 10 points with a series of miscues.

In the third set, Alabama State took a 3-1 advantage after a Briana Dorsey kill and some solid serving from Kori Kutsch.

But a taller Florida team (seven players who were 6-foot-2 or taller including 6-foot-8 Rachael Kramer) roared back with kills from their towering front line as Carli Snyder and Alex Holston each came up with big plays during the stretch to take a commanding 15-6 lead before going on to take the set.

Florida (27-3) will advance to play Florida State on Saturday, who defeated Cincinnati earlier in the day in four sets.

"Well, that wasn't the outcome that I expected," Lucas-White said.

"I felt like Florida came out well prepared and ready on all cylinders. I believe the youth of my team showed. I don't think they responded well at all. This is something that we've had to prepare for. We talked to them in practice about hitting high off hands, roll shooting and hitting shots. It's obvious that they didn't respond so I was very disappointed. This wasn't the first time that we saw a team that had a big block. We played Arizona, Pepperdine and SMU so I was disappointed because of their apprehension of adjusting."

Dorsey led the Lady Hornets with six kills and a block while Bayle Bennett added six kills.

Kutsch had seven assists and three digs and senior Jamie Coleman had a team-high five digs.

"As a team, we didn't play as well as we could have," said Coleman, the senior who played her final match as a player at Alabama State.

"We didn't adjust quickly enough on defense. A lot of their players were jumping over our block. That's something that we didn't adjust on. I feel that I could have played better. We didn't play how we should have played and that's the most disappointing thing about tonight."

The season marked the Lady Hornets' third overall NCAA Tournament appearance in the last four seasons and fourth consecutive season in which ASU won at least 20 matches.



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