JACKSON, Tenn. - 11/11/2008 - The Union University Lady Bulldog volleyball team swept through the 2008 TranSouth Conference Tournament without a loss, earning their first conference title since the 2004 season. The title gives Union their second trip (2004, 2008) to the NAIA National Tournament since the program's beginning in 1998.
Union's CJ Neathamer was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player as she led the tournament 7.4 digs per game. Joining Neathamer on the All-Tournament team was junior setter Katie Adams who led the tournament with 11.1 assists per game. Also on the team from Union was sophomore hitter, Heather Lieberman, who was third in the tournament with a .315 hitting percentage. She also talled 45 tournament kills, leading Union in kills two of the four matches played.
In the 11-year history of Union volleyball, the Lady Bulldogs have captured three TranSouth Tournament titles (1999, 2004, 2008) and three regular season titles (1999, 2000, 2004).
Earlier in the day, No. 2 seeded Union defeated Lyon (Ark.) College 3-1 to earn a spot in the championship round. Union Head Coach Steven Gream knew that he and his players could now just sit and watch as their opponent had to earn their way out of the loser’s bracket, and then have to defeat his Lady Bulldogs twice.
The opponent that emerged was the No. 3 seeded Trevecca Nazarene (Tenn.) University Trojans. Trevecca Nazarene had lost the first game of the tournament early on Monday morning, but rolled off four straight victories to avoid elimination. Included in their run to the championship round, via the loser’s bracket, was a win that eliminated top seeded Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) University.
Union started the title match with a lot of intensity as they fed off the energy of the home crowd to take the first game 25-14. It looked early as if the Trojans had finally hit the wall after playing in their third match of the day. But that notion was soon forgotten as Trevecca Nazarene announced their intent to push for the tournament title. The Trojans took the second game, 25-18 to even the score at 1-1.
Game three was back-and-forth as both teams struggled to get momentum. Union finally jumped up 22-18, late before holding on for the 25-23 win.
In game four, the Trojans quickly jumped out to a lead and took momentum. Union cut the lead to two points on several occasions, with the last coming 15-13, but could not get any closer. Trevecca Nazarene took game four 25-16, leveling the match at 2-2.
In game five, the crowd for Union rallied the Lady Bulldog players as they looked to end the match and not force the ‘if necessary’ championship match. Union jumped out to a 2-0 lead, before the Trojans tied the game at 2-2. Union responded with a 6-1 run to take an 8-3 lead as they snatched the momentum.
Union kept scoring and led 14-10, serving for match point. However, as they had done all during the tournament, Trevecca Nazarene bounced back with four straight points to tie the match at 14-14. After a both teams dug attack attempts from the other team, Union earned the point on a kill from setter, Katie Adams. Adams then served for tournament point, forcing the Trojans into a hitting error, putting Union in the national tournament.
Union was led by Heather Lieberman with 12 kills. Ashley Young added 11 kills, while Emilie Ogas and Amanda Coyle posted 10 kills each. Adams recorded 44 assists in the match, while CJ Neathamer led with 29 digs. Freshman Anna Sims led Union with nine blocks.
Trevecca Nazarene was led by Ashton O’Halloran with 23 kills. Kaley Ward and Kristen Evans added 10 kills each. Kelly Huff recorded 47 assists, while Jessica Hood led with 22 digs. Ward also led with four blocks.
Union will await their opponent and location for the NAIA National Tournament Opening Round to be determined by the NAIA after all conference tournaments are completed this week. November 22 will be the day for the opening round, while the final site location and dates for the national tournament will be Sioux City, Iowa on December 2-6.
2008 TranSouth Conference All-Tournament Team
CJ Neathamer, Union University (Most Valuable Player)
Katie Adams, Union University
Heather Lieberman, Union University
Kelly Huff, Trevecca Nazarene University
Kimi Coffey, Trevecca Nazarene University
Katie Beineke, Lyon College
Katie Ball, Cumberland University
Phone: (731) 661-5027
Fax: (731) 661-5182