Volleyball battles to five-set win over Sewanee

2013 seniors Sarassa Burrus and Alex Bothe with their families and Coach Judy Green. (photo by Jimmy Mitchell)
2013 seniors Sarassa Burrus and Alex Bothe with their families and Coach Judy Green. (photo by Jimmy Mitchell)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—The Birmingham-Southern volleyball team closed out its regular season home schedule with a 3-2 win against Sewanee, Sunday afternoon in Bill Battle Coliseum.

The Panthers move to 17-7 overall and 6-6 in the Southern Athletic Association, while the Tigers fall to 13-10 overall and 4-8 in the SAA. BSC swept Sewanee this season after winning 3-2 back on Sept. 29 in Sewanee, Tenn.

It was Senior Day for BSC, with seniors Alex Bothe and Sarassa Burrus being honored in a post-game ceremony. The Panthers also teamed up with Sewanee to host the second-annual Stand Up to Cancer fundraiser, selling t-shirts and taking donations to benefit the organization Stand Up to Cancer. Andrea Burke Thames, who played for BSC Head Coach Judy Green and was teammate and roommate of Sewanee Head Coach Shawna Laurendine, is a breast cancer survivor and was the Honorary Coach of the match.

Sewanee won the first point of the opening set, then watched the Panthers rally back with six straight points to take the 6-1 lead. BSC would never trail again in the first set. At 17-16, BSC won eight of the next 13 points, the final two points off kills from Bothe, to win set one 25-21.

The second set opened in a similar fashion to the first with the Panthers finding themselves in an early hole. However, BSC would again stage a run that gave them a lead they would never give up. Trailing 8-6, the Panthers sparked the four-point run with two kills from Bothe and a service ace from sophomore Emily Dang. Sewanee would never get closer than a point the rest of the set. BSC enjoyed a lead as large as seven at 21-14 before putting the match away with a kill from junior Katie O' Bar and service ace from Bothe. The 25-19 set win would be the largest margin either team earned on the day.

Eleven lead changes and ties highlighted a highly competitive third set. With the Panthers down four at 22-18, BSC closed to within one after two straight aces from Dang, the final aces of her game-high three. Another kill from Bothe pulled BSC to within one again at 24-23, but a Sewanee kill on the next point gave the Tigers their first set win of the afternoon.

Set four was another back-and-forth contest with the squads knotted up late at 17 points apiece. Two straight Sewanee points were answered by another Bothe kill to pull the Panthers within one at 19-18. However, BSC would never be closer than a point the rest of the set as Sewanee used a 6-2 run to win the set 25-20.

In set five, the Panthers spotted Sewanee a 1-0 lead before pulling ahead 2-1 after an ace from freshman Lynsie Byrd. BSC would never trail the rest of the way in the final and decisive set. A kill from junior Meredith Lee sealed the 15-10 set victory and match for the host Panthers.

BSC has been no stranger to five-set matches this season. The Panthers are 5-2 in five-setters, four of the wins having come in conference action. This afternoon's home win also moved the Panthers' home record to an impressive 9-3 for the season.

Offensively, the Panthers were led by Bothe's team-high 17 kills, followed by Lee with 13. Sophomore Lauren Bedford led the team with 32 digs, while Dang notched a match-high 29 assists.

BSC travels to Georgia for its next two matches, both against SAA opponents, starting with a 3 p.m. Eastern match against Oglethorpe on Friday, Oct. 25 in Atlanta. Sunday, Oct. 27, the Panthers will take on conference-leading Berry at 3 p.m. Eastern in Rome, Ga.