SAVANNAH, Ga. — The LMU volleyball team saw their season come to a heart-breaking end Thursday as Tusculum pulled out a five-set thriller (25-21, 18-25, 25-16, 18-25, 15-12) over the Lady Railsplitters in the quarterfinals o the NCAA Division II Southeast Region Tournament.
The Lady Railsplitters finish with an overall record of 21-14. Tusculum moves to 23-7 and advances to the semifinals where they await the winner of No. 1 Armstrong Atlantic and No. 8 Belmont Abbey.
The match was characterized on the offensive side of the ball with the Pioneers capping the game with a slight advantage on overall hitting percentage (.188-.178). However, the real disparity showed in the set-by-set totals. The Lady Railsplitters suffered a 25-21 loss in the opening set in which they were forced into 11 errors, limited to 10 kills and held to a -.021 attack percentage. LMU responded by notching a .400 attack percentage in the next set with 16 kills (six from Blaire Fowler) and only two miscues en route to a 25-18 victory to knot the match at one apiece.
The Lady Railsplitters suffered a 25-16 defeat in the third set marked by a .043 attack percentage but responded in the fourth set with a 16-kill effort on a .412 attack percentage to grab another 25-18 set win and force the match into a decisive fifth set.
The Pioneers closed the door in the fifth and final set with a 10-6 kill advantage in that frame. In all five sets in the match, the victor held a commanding lead in the attacking categories for the set in question. Neither team had more than a two-point advantage in the fifth set until Ashley Sarmiento’s service ace made the score 12-9 in favor of Tusculum late in the set. The teams sided out until, on the second match point, Sam Underwood provided the kill to upend the Lady Railsplitters, 15-12.
Lincoln Memorial’s offensive unit was paced by the outstanding effort of junior right side Kaitlin Walton. Walton tallied 16 kills in the match.
Senior middle blocker Blaire Fowler sat out the first set due to an injury that limited her action, however, her impact was still felt as she compiled 12 kills and eight digs over the final four sets in her finale for the Lady Railsplitters.
Freshman outside hitter Casey Mense recorded 10 kills and paired that number with a team-leading 29 digs to pace the Lady Railsplitters to a 90-88 advantage in the dig column. A pair of seniors in Kristen Cantrell and Brittany Pugh also played a significant role in the defensive effort for Lincoln Memorial with 15 digs apiece.
Pugh notched a double-double in her final match for the Lady Railsplitters by dishing out 22 assists to go along with her 15 digs. Sophomore Allison Beavers led LMU with 29 assists on the evening.
The Lady Railsplitters capped the match with a slight 59-58 advantage in the kill column, while also out-blocking the Pioneers, 9-4.
The duo of Danae Stauffer and Alyssa Raterman led the offensive unit for the Pioneers, as Stauffer concluded the match with a game-high 17 digs with Raterman finishing close behind with 15. Raterman capped the match with a .542 attack percentage.
Ashley Sarmiento distributed a game-high 46 assists for Tusculum, while Caitlyn Dean accounted for nearly half of the Pioneers’ digs with 40 on the night. Sarmiento tallied 12 digs as the lone player for the Pioneers to finish with a double-double performance on the night.