Coastal Reaches Championship Match With Comeback Win
HIGH POINT, N.C. - After falling behind to #5 Winthrop 2-1, the top-seeded Coastal Carolina volleyball team climbed back to take a five-set victory over the Eagles in Friday's semifinal to advance to the Big South championship match for the fourth straight season. The Chants were led in the effort by Leah Hardeman, who set a program single-match record (25 point scoring) and career high with 25 kills.
The five-set match was just Coastal's (24-4) third of the season, the last coming in a loss to Xavier back on Sept. 12. It was also the first match to go into a fifth set against a conference opponent this season.
Friday's second semifinal between #6 Radford and #7 Campbell will determine who Coastal will face in Sunday's championship match. First serve on Sunday is set for 2 p.m., and the match will be shown live on ESPN3.
Hardeman's 25 kills surpassed her previous best of 24, set last season against Liberty and achieved again in the 2014 Big South championship win over Radford. The sophomore outside hitter and two-time Big South Player of the Year finished with a .339 hitting percentage against the Eagles while also registering five blocks (one solo, four assists) and two service aces for a match-leading 30.0 points.
Winthrop claimed the first set in extra points, 26-24, after it appeared Coastal was in full control with a 21-15 lead. Winthrop used its first timeout of the set to slow the Chants, and strung together a 7-2 run out of the break to trail Coastal by one. CCU used a timeout of its own to regroup, but the Eagles managed to break a 24-24 tie and claim the final two points.
Hardeman took control in the second set, putting down nine of Coastal's 17 kills in the game to lead the Chants to a 25-11 set win. Coastal posted a .533 hitting percentage while never letting Winthrop take a lead.
Coastal's offense hit just .059 in the third set and managed only eight kills as the Eagles racked up 20 digs and four blocks on their way to a 25-19 set victory and 2-1 match lead.
The offense returned to form in the fourth set, however, hitting .414 as both Hardeman and Natasa Savovic put down four kills. A late rally from Winthrop made the score appear close, but the Chants led the set from start to finish.
Winthrop led just once in the final set as Rachel Lenz grabbed the opening point, though the Eagles did manage to bring the score within one, 7-6, midway through. Hardeman produced one final time in the match as she paced the Chants with six kills in the fifth.
Coastal was assisted in the victory by its serving as the Chants tallied 12 aces to Winthrop's two. Savovic was responsible for six of those aces, tying Kindra Bailey's mark from 2012 for the CCU single-match record (25 point scoring).
Sara Boothe nearly tied another match record as the freshman setter finished with 54 assists, four shy of Lauren Alejo's record of 58 set in 2013.
Senior Eszter Nagy finished the match second on the team in kills (11), hitting percentage (.348) and total points (17.0) while leading the Chants with seven blocks (one solo, six assists).