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Nov. 2, 2007
SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Heading into the fifth game of Friday night's Atlantic Sun Conference matchup between the USC Upstate volleyball team and Mercer, the numbers weren't in Upstate's favor. In three previous five-game matches at the Hodge Center, the Spartans had come up on the short end. Spurred by five kills from sophomore Jesicah Ambrisco (Iowa City, Iowa/Regina Catholic), however, Upstate rolled away with a 15-12 win in the decisive game, taking the match, 3-2 (28-30, 30-23, 30-25, 19-30, 15-12).
Besides the hottest-hitting five-match night of the season for the Spartans, who hit .343 (79 kills, 20 errors, 172 chances), the team also got a season-high 15 blocks to improve to 10-15 overall and 2-8 in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Head coach Jennifer Calloway has coached the Spartans to at least 10 wins in each of her 12 years as a coach. Mercer fell to 9-16 overall and 6-4 in the A-Sun.
Freshman Sandra Campbell (Orlando, Fla./Pilot Point (Texas)) led the Spartan attack, posting career-highs of 17 kills and 10 blocks for her first career double-double, while sophomore Morgan Bucciferro (Joliet, Ill./Minooka Community) added her fifth double-double of the year with 36 assists and 14 digs.
"It was a huge amount of teamwork," Campbell said. "Everyone was on. Everything was going well. Blocks were set. Sets were perfect. Passes were perfect. Everything was clicking and we just came together as a team (Friday)."
Sophomore Katie Downey (Belleville, Ill./Belleville West) and Ambrisco each posted 18 kills, with Downey hitting a hearty season-high .457, just behind Campbell's career-high .484. Junior Jovana Lubura (Beograd, Serbia/New Mexico Military Institute) added 16 kills and a .375 hitting percentage. Junior Jenna Leslie (Houston, Texas/Westfield) added 12 digs, four kills and a career-high six blocks. Junior Tijana Knezevic (Indija, Serbia/New Mexico Military Institute) posted three kills, two aces, eight digs and a career-high five blocks.
Although the Spartans fell behind 2-0 in the fifth game, they stormed back, as Ambrisco posted a kill for the first point. The team built up a 7-4 lead as junior Holly Mauldin (Columbia, S.C./Irmo) served for three points. From there, the Spartans nurtured the lead to 12-7 on a kill from Campbell. The Bears fought to within two points after a Spartan attack error made it 13-11, but Ambrisco responded with two kills in the next three points to close the door. Upstate hit .364 (11-3-22) in the closing game.
"Jess stepped up," Campbell said. "I could tell as soon as she got in. She had this look in her eyes that said, `I am going to get this ball,' and you just know she will."
The Bears came back to tie the match in the fourth game, as Claire Tucker served for five straight points to give Mercer a 21-14 lead. From there, the Bears cruised to the 30-19 decision, forcing the fifth game. The Spartans hit a match-low .143 in the game, as Julie Darty and Karen Dorris combined for 11 kills for Mercer.
Using a .340 hitting percentage, the Spartans took the third game, 30-25, as Downey led the way with seven kills and Ambrisco added five. The Spartans rolled out to an 8-4 lead, thanks to back-to-back Mercer errors. The Bears tied the match at 11, but Upstate used three kills from Downey and two from Lubura to take an 18-13 lead. The Bears fought back yet again to tie the match at 20 and 25, but a sneak attack kill from setter Bucciferro sparked a five-point Spartan rally to close the game. Downey ended the game with a kill off a Mercer freeball.
Upstate hit a Spartan-like .581 in the second game to take a 30-23 decision, led by eight kills and an .889 hitting performance from Campbell, who also added four block assists in the game. The Spartans opened up a 16-10 lead after a kill from Campbell and an attack error by Mercer and kept the lead at no less than four for the rest of the game.
Mercer stole the first game from the Spartans, hitting .262 while Upstate hit .324. The Bears opened up a 23-20 lead after two kills from Julie Darty and one from Dorris. From there, the Spartans could cut the lead to one at 29-28, but Julie Darty closed the game with one of his 28 kills.
Julie Darty posted 28 kills and hit .351 for the Bears and Drennan Dexheimer added 12. Erica Vrvilo, Jen Darty and Dorris each added 11. Kelly Jansen posted 67 assists. Claire Tucker added 14 digs and Allison Davis posted 13.
The Spartans will wrap up the Atlantic Sun Conference season, as Kennesaw State comes to the Hodge Center at 3 p.m. on Saturday.