SAILFISH VOLLEYBALL: NCAA Regional Tournament Semi-Finals Preview

Written By: Michael Brown, Assistant A.D. for Communications

TAMPA, Fla.- It wasn’t the matchup than many may have suspected for the semi-finals of the NCAA South Regional Volleyball Tournament however fans of Palm Beach Atlantic and Christian Brothers University will certainly take it. Both teams came away with history-making performances on Thursday in their opening round matches as they earned their first-ever NCAA Tournament wins to move to Friday’s semi-finals.

The Sailfish (34-3) and Buccaneers (21-12) will battle at 5 pm on Friday at the Bob Martinez Athletic Center, home to the University of Tampa and the host of the NCAA South Regional Tournament.

All fans and alumni who cannot make the trip to Tampa can watch a live video feed of the match by visiting the NCAA South Regional Tournament webpage. CLICK HERE TO VIEW.

Semi-Finals Preview

The Opposition: Christian Brothers enters Friday’s semi-final match fresh off an exciting upset win over No. 2-seed University of West Florida. The Argonauts recently swept CBU in the Gulf South Conference Tournament finals and held a No. 17 national ranking in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) National Poll.

The Lady Bucs now boast a 21-12 record for the season and finished with an 11-5 conference mark.

The team hails from Memphis, Tennessee where they play extremely well on their home floor as evidenced by their 11-1 record. Things have not come quit as easy on the road for CBU as they have a 10-11 record away from Canale Arena including road contests and neutral court decisions.

Christian Brothers is coached by In-Sik Hwang who is in his tenth season coaching the Lady Bucs. 

The History: Friday’s semi-finals match will mark nearly a month of time between the two team’s only-ever matchup in program history. If that match proved to be an appetizer for Friday’s entrée then the fans from both teams better prepare themselves for a hard-fought and emotional battle. 

The last time the two teams saw each other was also on a neutral court as PBA and CBU met at the University of North Alabama on Friday, November 2nd.

Although the Fish were victorious 3-2 on that day the victory didn’t come with ease. PBA trailed 2-1 after three sets while also falling behind 7-3 in the fifth and deciding set. Tied 12-12 in the final set, the Fish rattled off three straight points to earn the 15-12 win.

PBA senior outside-hitter Mariela Quesada put together one of her best all-around performances of the season with 22 kills and 22 digs while tallying the match’s final point. Freshman Faith Rohn added in a season-high 18 kills to balance the attack while Brytney Annis and Rachel Jones each chipped in solid showings with nine and eight kills respectively.

Becca Acevedo dished out a career-high 60 assists in the win while Melissa Buckingham added in 19 digs to lead the team’s defensive efforts.

Alexis Gillis led CBU’s efforts with 12 kills as PBA limited the opposition to only a .095 attacking percentage.

Who to Watch For: Tonight’s matchup features PBA’s balance of Quesada and the team’s strong freshman class versus a very even and experienced CBU attack.

While Quesada paces the Fish with over 500 kills on the season, CBU instead goes with a more balanced effort with four players registering at least 250 kills.

Hailey Gillis leads the team with 347 kills (2.47 kills per set) for the season and will be one of the front-line attackers fed by setter Kelsey Miles. Miles joins Hailey Gillis as one of six seniors on the CBU squad compared to just one on the Sailfish side. Miles has 1278 assists (10.06 per set) on the season while adding in 45 service aces.

Both liberos earned Daktronics All-Region recognition this season with Buckingham taking home first-team honors and CBU’s Kristina Headrick grabbing hold of second-team recognition. Buckingham has been superb in her role with a team-best 529 digs (4.10 per set) while Headrick as a freshman has also stepped up as she leads her team’s defense with 528 digs (4.76 per set).

Key Components: The Sailfish took on a big front-line in Rollins College in their first-round matchup and despite a strong disparity in blocks they were able to come out with a victory. On the other side of the coin, they continued their good work in the serve/serve receive aspect of their game as they compiled 11 team aces with just two for the opposition.

CBU has not been a dangerous team with their serve as they only have accumulated 169 team aces for the season compared to that of PBA who has produced 283 aces.

Today the Fish take on the Lady Bucs who have only one starting or key reserve player over 6’0” in height. PBA will hope to maintain their dominant serve while perhaps having more luck on the attack against a smaller block.

Another key factor could be which attackers the Sailfish key in on. With CBU’s balanced front-line it may take one or two players rising to the occasion for CBU to knock off the Fish.

Moving On: The winner of Friday’s semi-final matchup will take on the winner of No. 1-seed University of Tampa and No. 5-seed Florida Southern College on Saturday at 7 pm for the NCAA Regional Championship.

Tampa easily defeated No. 8-seed Clark Atlanta in their first-round match while Florida Southern upset  conference rival Eckerd College as the No. 5-seed with a 3-2 win in Thursday’s first-round.

PBA was defeated by UT by a score of 3-0 earlier this season for their only regional loss while never having competed against FSC in PBA’s NCAA-era.

The Lady Bucs have not faced either team this season.

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