Coastal Falls in First Round to No. 16 Creighton
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Sophomore outside hitter Leah Hardeman led Coastal Carolina with a career high of 27 kills, but it was not enough as the Chanticleers fell in four sets (27-29, 25-23, 22-25, 22-25) to No. 16 Creighton in the first round of the NCAA Volleyball Championship.
Coastal ends the 2015 season with a 25-5 record and the best winning percentage (.833) in program history. Creighton improves to 26-8 overall and advances to Saturday's second round match where it will face the winner of North Carolina and UNC Wilmington.
Coastal's 25-23 victory in the second set marked the first set win for the Chants in five NCAA appearances. It was also just the fourth set win by a Big South team, and first since 2008 when Liberty took the second set in a first round match against No. 4 Nebraska.
Hardeman's 27 kills -- a Coastal Carolina single-match record -- came on 62 attempts, one shy of her career mark of 63. The sophomore put down seven kills in each of the first three sets before closing the match with six in the fourth.
Hardeman finished the match hitting .274 while also leading the Chants with 22 digs. Her lone service ace brought her points total to 28.0, a match high.
Sara Boothe provided 51 assists, the most for the freshman in a four-set match and just three shy of her overall career record of 54.
The teams were evenly matched though Coastal held slight advantages in total attacks (180-172), kills (67-64), assists (63-61), digs (83-76) and points (76.0-72.0). Coastal's largest advantage was serving, as the Chants finished with six aces while not giving up a single one to Creighton.
Creighton led Coastal in hitting (.308-.250) and used its height to edge the Chants at the net, eight blocks to three.
The Bluejays' attack was led by the 20 kills of Jaali Winters, the BIG EAST Freshman of the Year. Jess Bird followed with 16 kills -- including seven in the final set -- while posting a .302 hitting percentage. Lauren Smith led Creighton hitting .550 and was the final Bluejay to finish with double figure kills, putting down 11.
Creighton led by as many as seven points in the opening set and appeared to be in full control of the game as the Bluejays held set point at 24-19. Bernett led a Coastal comeback to tie the set at 24-24, however, as the senior sandwiched a Creighton ball handling error with kills before assisting on a block with Eszter Nagy. Carla Cahill put down an ace, and Hardeman gave Coastal a 25-24 lead with her sixth kill of the opening set.
With the set tied 27-27, Creighton received kills from Taryn Kloth and Bird to take a 1-0 match lead.
Coastal hit .349 in the second set as the Chants held the lead from start to finish. Coastal's largest lead of the set came at 20-15 before Creighton went on a 7-3 run to pull within one of the Chants. Coastal finished the set on kills from Hardeman and Savovic.
The final two sets saw one lead change apiece as Creighton led for the majority of play. Coastal hit .222 in each of the last two sets while Creighton improved its .275 hitting in the third to .325 in the fourth. The Bluejays also recorded five blocks to Coastal's one.