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November 22, 2002

USI volleyball breezes by Lewis in first round,
Faces top-seed Grand Valley State in semifinals

University of Southern Indiana (26-7): 3
Lewis University (25-5): 0
Game Scores: 30-27, 30-15, 30-17

ALLENDALE, Mich.—In a season of firsts, the University of Southern Indiana volleyball team recorded another first Friday night, its first win in the NCAA Division II Tournament. After winning the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament and advancing in the national stage for the first time in school history, the Screaming Eagles breezed past the Lewis University Flyers, 3-0, in the first round of the NCAA II Tournament at the Grand Valley State University Fieldhouse Arena.

USI improves to 26-7 with the win while the fourth-seeded Flyers end their season at 25-5.

After struggling to gain any type of advantage in game one, the Eagles went on a 4-0 run to post a 21-18 lead. USI traded points and eventually found itself with a one-point advantage late in the first game.

However, the Eagles pushed three straight points to take 29-25 lead. USI survived a two-point Lewis run to stake claim to a 30-27 victory and a 1-0 lead in the match.

Sophomore middle hitter Natalie Atzinger (Louisville, Kentucky), led the Eagles with five kills and a .375 attacking percentage in the first contest.

“I think that it set a tone for the match,” Atzinger said of the game-one victory. “It showed Lewis that we were ready to play.”

Like the first game, the Eagles found themselves down 2-0 in the second game. However, the Eagles pushed points in the second stanza. USI recorded two 4-0 runs and a 5-0 run as it took the second game 30-15.

“I think that was a big change in momentum,” sophomore middle blocker Leeanne Gross said. “They (Lewis) just started to get scared. Everybody stepped up and we began to take over.” Gross finished the match with 12 kills and a .458 attacking percentage.

Defensively, the Eagles stopped nearly everything that the Flyers threw at them. Senior outside hitters Shannon Wells (Merrillville, Indiana) and Kristi Kavanaugh (Montgomery, Indiana) recorded 18 digs and 15 digs, respectively, to lead USI. The Eagles also recorded seven blocks to help hold the Lewis attack to a .100 hitting percentage.

“I think the big thing was that we were able to get some touches on the ball at the net that slowed the ball down, enabling us to generate an offense,” Head Coach Craig Bere said. “We played a lot more disciplined defense, taking care of our responsibilities. That proved to be the difference.”

Like the first game, the Eagles once again found themselves in a battle in the third game. That is until they reeled off seven straight points to take a 17-11 advantage. The stretch forced Lewis to take both of its timeouts.

The Eagles also posted a pair of 4-0 stretches later in the frame as they took the third game 30-17.

Said Bere of the win: “This gives us the confidence that we can go in and play with anyone, whether it be the middle seed or the top seed.”

USI, which entered the tournament as the fifth seed, will face the top seed, Grand Valley State, in the semifinals Saturday evening. The match is slated for a 6:30 p.m. start. GVSU enters the match with a 29-2 mark.

“We will have to serve and serve-receive well in order for us to be successful tomorrow,” Bere explained. “They are a big team and are very athletic. They will be hard for us to beat at the net.”

Dan McDonnell,
USI Sports Information

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