Columbia, S.C. - The Brevard College volleyball team took a trip south of the border as they took on the host Columbia College Fighting Koalas on Saturday afternoon. With conference play over and a berth in next weekend's Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Tournament already in hand, no one would fault the Tornados for looking ahead to next week.
However, Coach Brenda Skeffington's team put aside tournament dreams for the moment and held off a talented Columbia squad in five sets: 19-25, 22-25, 26-24, 25-19, 15-10.
A low ceiling and a noisy Koala senior day crowd were not enough to deny the Brevard victory as the Tornados improve to 13-16, 3-13 in the South Atlantic Conference, while Columbia falls to 16-17 on the season.
Columbia jumped out to a 17-10 lead in the first set, before Brevard started to mount a comeback. Blocks by junior outside hitter Megan Street and freshman middle hitter Ashlie Morrison and a service ace by senior setter Jami Perry brought Brevard back within striking distance, but the comeback fell short as Columbia took the first set, 25-19.
A service ace by Perry tied the game up at two early in the second set, but Columbia rallied back to take a commanding 16-11 lead. Back-to-back kills by Morrison brought the Tornados within one, but Columbia took the final point to go up 2-0 with a 25-22 set win.
With the score tied at four, Brevard went on a 6-1 run started by sophomore libero Rebecca Schoonover's ace to start off set number three. Columbia caught up and passed the Tornados on their way to building up a 22-19 lead. At this point of the game, the Tornados showed their heart and determination as junior middle hitter Brooke Seaman launched an ace to bring the score back within two. Following a Koala timeout, sophomore outside hitter Brooke Sturgill wrapped two aces around a Columbia attack error to give the Tornados a 23-22 lead.
Columbia bounced back to put the game at match point, but a solo block by freshman middle hitter Jordei Osby tied the game up at 24. Two points later, junior outside hitter Chelsey Trojan slammed the ball home, giving the Tornados the set, 26-24.
Behind Sturgill's service, the Tornados opened up the fourth set with a 6-3 lead. Osby took over the middle of the set as she dominated the net, first recording back-to-back blocks with Street, slamming home a kill, and recording a solo block in helping build the lead to 12-4. The Koalas lived up to their name as they fought to tie the game up at 17 apiece, but the Tornados would not be denied as they closed out the set on a Trojan service ace, winning the set 25-19 and evening the match at 2.
In the deciding fifth set, Brevard held an 8-3 lead as the teams switched sides on the court behind the serve of junior defensive specialist Cori Emory and the play at the net by Seaman. Columbia never was able to get closer than four the rest of the way as Morrison put in a rally-stopping kill. Seaman finished the game on a block on a Koala attack as the Tornados took set five 15-10.
"Winning back-to-back five game sets demonstrates a lot about the character of a team, especially as both wins came when we fell behind 2-0," Assistant Coach Kelly Burdeau said after the game. "It's easy to give up after getting down, but I'm proud of them for fighting with heart and winning. As a coach, that is something you can't teach, but it is one of the most important qualities of a good team."
Offensively, the Tornados were led by Seaman and the freshman duo of Morrison and Osby. Seaman recorded a team-high 15 kills in the match, with five coming in the final set to put the game away. Morrison added nine, with Osby chipping in with five. The trio combined to convert 39% of their attacks to kills in leading the Tornado comeback. Perry gave them the opportunity to succeed by recording 38 assists for the match.
Defensively, the trio, along with Street, Perry and freshman outside hitter Chelsea Larsen combined for 16 total blocks, led by Osby who recorded a personal-best six solo blocks to go with three block assists. Trojan recorded a team-high 19 digs for the game, followed closely by Schoonover and Perry who had 18 apiece.
The Tornados are back in action Tuesday, November 11, as they host North Greenville University in Brevard's final home match of the season. Game time is set for 7 p.m. with a short ceremony scheduled after the match to recognize lone BC senior, Jami Perry. Columbia heads to Mount Berry, Ga. as they head to the first round of the Southern States Athletic Conference tournament hosted by Berry College.