Friday, December 2, 2016

Alabama State Lady Hornets eye Gators in NCAA Tournament

GAINESVILLE, Florida – At first glance, it may not have seemed likely at the start of the season that this band of Alabama State Lady Hornets would be in the position that they are in.

Not when you consider that the team had lost eight seniors to graduation off an experienced two-time championship team, who had been no strangers to the NCAA Tournament. 

Not when four of those players (Rachel SmithMyla MarshallAmber Bennett and Chelsey Scott) ranked among the top five in kills in program history since the 1994 season and accounted for nearly 4,000 kills during their tenure here.

Not when it would be starting again with a first-year setter (Justus Tuiolosega) with the program or considering that it's such a young team with six freshmen and only one senior to steer the leadership. 

But these Lady Hornets have no use for barriers in their minds—they're too busy winning volleyball matches—21 of their last 22 to be exact. 

Breaking conventional wisdom, Alabama State (24-8) will take on Florida (26-3) for the second time in three seasons in a NCAA Tournament match up on Friday at Florida's Lemerand Athletic Center for a 7 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. CT start in Gainesville. 

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Tweets and updates will be made @ASUBUZZ. 

For Florida, it marks their 26th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament—only three programs have longer active streaks in the NCAA.

Penn St. (36), Stanford (36) and Nebraska (35) are the only schools with longer active streaks. 

It marks the Lady Hornets' third overall NCAA Tournament appearance in the last four seasons. 

So when ASU head women's volleyball coach Penny Lucas-White discusses the reasons behind the success of her Lady Hornets this season, it's interesting what she points out.

"They expect to win and I think they genuinely like each other," said coach Lucas-White.

"And, I think that a team that loves each other, can play really, really well together. I think it's important for women to bond together.  Men must battle to bond, but women must bond to battle.  I really think that they have a really, tight cohesive niche as a group." 

While the Gators have only dropped three matches all season (#1 Nebraska, Kentucky, and at Missouri), coach Lucas-White expects her team to rise to the challenge. 

"My kids are very ambitious," coach Lucas-White said. 

"They've very driven.  And I'm excited that I get to do this one more time with this group.  For our kids who were here two years ago, they remember the team and have something to prove.  For the players who are here, they are excited to prove who they are.  I think people will be surprised at how well we play." 

Florida and Alabama State met in the NCAA Tournament two seasons ago in the first round in Gainesville as the Gators won in three sets. 

It was the only meeting between the schools. 

The Gators are led by Rhamat Alhassan (.422 hitting percentage; sixth in the nation), Alex Holston (3.81 kills per set; 71st in the nation) and Allie Monserez (12.29 assists per set; leads the nation).

The Lady Hornets counter with four players, who accounted for at least 230 kills in Briana Dorsey (281 kills, .416 hitting percentage is good for 10th in the nation), Ni'yesha Brown (274 kills), Bayle Bennett (261 kills) and Krysta Medearis (230 kills).

The winner of the match will meet the winner of Florida State/Cincinnati on Saturday. 


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