IRVING, Texas — The Southwestern University Pirates volleyball team took two of the first three sets and held on to advance to the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) semifinals with a five-set victory (25-20, 18-25, 25-13, 25-27, 15-6) over Austin College.
After struggling to closeout five-set victories in October, the Pirates regained their composure after dropping the fourth set 27-25 against Austin College, getting a boost from freshman Alyssa Dooley, who opened the fifth set with three quick kills to help push Southwestern to an early 10-3 lead.
Senior Jamison Duck closed the set with two of the Pirates' last three points, finishing the night with a match-high 17 kills.
"After we dropped the fourth set, [the response] showed what this team was about and the progress we've made," senior Brandi Campos said. "We're so much different from where we started and now we're ready for these battles.
"This win shows we can bounce back from losing sets and still pull through, trust each other, and get the win."
Campos set the tone for the Pirates' defense, producing a season-high 32 digs to help keep Austin to just 47 kills on a .154 hitting percentage.
"Brandi was tremendous behind the block all night and her coordination of the defense was very direct and efficient," Head Coach Don Flora said. "We're proud of this win and look forward to the next round of the SCAC Tournament."
Southwestern found itself in a battle with the lower seeded Austin College early, starting the first set exchanging blows through a 9-9 tie. Then, the middle started taking over and creating separation, led by Ashley Whitlock's five kills in the set.
Whitlock was one of five Pirates to finish with double-digit kills and was, by far, the most efficient; finishing with 12 kills on 20 attacks with one error for a .550 hitting percentage.
"Our offense is really strong because I know I can depend on the person to the left and right of me when we're in a rut," Whitlock said. "We were very good on the net tonight. We hit it pretty hard and they just couldn't get them up."
Austin College recovered from its first set loss to hold the Pirates to a .000 hitting percentage in the second, taking advantage of 11 Southwestern attack errors.
Southwestern dominated in the third behind a balanced attack, getting meaningful contributions from Lauren Crabtree, who finished the match with 10 kills on a .318 hitting percentage with five digs and three assisted blocks.
Austin College responded with its best offensive set of the match, totaling 17 kills on a .316 hitting percentage to take the set on a service ace from Kristen Massey.
"Battles often happen during the first matches of this tournament and tonight, Austin College put quality pressure on us," Flora said. "We give their team credit for a good game plan. Watching our powerful group of women find a way to put Austin College away in the fifth set was gratifying for our staff."
Mason Kennon led Austin College in kills with 12 but needed 43 attacks to get them, committing nine attack errors to finish with a .070 hitting percentage.
"Our mentality was just don't let the ball hit the floor," Campos said. "It felt good because everyone was contributing, flying around, and getting after it."
With the win, the Pirates improve to 17-11 on the season. They advance to the semifinals to play Trinity tomorrow at 2:30 p.m.