The Oglethorpe volleyball team saw its 2016 season draw to a close Friday night in the first round of the SAA Tournament in Conway, Arkansas, as the seventh-seeded Stormy Petrels fell to the second-seeded Birmingham-Southern Panthers, 3-0. With the loss, the Petrels finish the season 11-19, marking the second time in the last three seasons that the program has finished with double-digit victories.
The Petrels did not start off the match well, but built their way back into it somewhat over the course of the second and third sets. In the end, though, the 22-6 Panthers just proved too much for the Petrels.
The opening set began with a 4-0 run by Birmingham-Southern and, after a two-of-three interlude by the Petrels, the Panthers continued to extend their lead by pushing the run out to 12-3. A brief Oglethorpe response was followed by another surge from Birmingham-Southern, as they finished the set on an 11-4 stretch and put it away, 25-11, for a 1-0 lead.
The second set didn't start much better for the Petrels, as they fell behind 9-2 early after a 7-0 run from the Panthers. After Oglethorpe cut it to 10-5, Birmingham-Southern again responded with a 5-0 run to build a 15-5 advantage. The Petrels responded with separate runs of three straight, pulling back to within six points, 19-13. Three straight BSC points put them back up by nine, 22-13, but a 4-0 run by the Petrels pulled them back to within just five, 23-18. The Panthers finished off the set from there with consecutive points, though, winning it 25-18.
The third set was tight throughout and got off to a much better start for the Petrels. They used a 4-point run to go ahead 4-2, then broke a 4-4 tie with a 7-2 spurt, surging to an 11-6 lead. The Panthers came back with a 7-1 run to retake the lead, 13-12, though. The two teams traded 2-point mini-runs to make it 15-14, but the Petrels followed with four straight to take an 18-15 edge into the latter portion of the set. However, Birmingham-Southern turned the stanza upside-down with a 6-0 run, making it 22-19 in their favor. The teams traded brief runs of back-to-back points, but that brought Birmingham-Southern to match point, up 24-21. Three straight Oglethorpe points tied it up at 24-24, but the Panthers finished it off with consecutive points to win the set, 26-24, and the match, 3-0.
The Petrels got several very good performances on the evening. Sophomore outside hitter Savanna Hockman collected a team-high 10 kills while junior setter Jordan Jones, named All-SAA Honorable Mention earlier in the day, recorded a match-high 22 assists and 13 digs. Sophomore defensive specialist Taylor Cherry led the squad with 15 digs, while freshman defensive specialist Alex Prots posted 14 digs. Sophomore libero Anna Rash came up with 11 digs on the evening.
"I'm proud of the effort from our team over the course of the entire match," said Oglethorpe head coach Richie Tang. "We slowly settled in and were able to execute the items that we scouted and worked on in preparation for this match. We gave up too many point runs and committed too many errors in the first two sets. Our offense finally clicked in the third and we had an opportunity to keep the match alive. Unfortunately, we just couldn't finish the set off. Since we do not have any seniors among this group, I'm looking forward to adding some impact recruits to add to the mix we already have and get us to move up the conference standings a bit more next season. I'm most proud of the fact that our team was supportive of each other whether they were on or off the court this season."