GULFPORT, Miss. - In many ways it seemed the Spring Hill College and Shorter University volleyball teams had been on a collision course for a semifinal match in the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) Tournament ever since Shorter took a 3-1 win over the Badgers in September. The Badgers came up on the winning side this time, however, taking a 3-2 (25-17, 27-29, 13-25, 25-23, 15-8) decision over the Hawks in a match fought tooth-and-nail throughout the contest.
SHC and Shorter traded the first 10 points of the match before either team managed so much as a 2-point advantage when the Badgers went up 8-6. A 6-1 run by Spring Hill made the score 14-8 and then the Badgers stretched it into a 21-13 lead to take the first set 25-17.
The second set was a war. SHC held a slim 18-16 advantage, but a late 6-point run by the Hawks made it 22-18 in favor of Shorter. Spring Hill mustered the resolve to respond and tied the set at 24 each, 26 each and then again at 27, but Shorter finally found a way to win at 29-27.
After the emotions of the second set, the Badgers came out a bit flat for Set 3 and fell 25-13 to give Shorter a 2-1 bulge, but Spring Hill would rally in Sets 4 and 5.
Set 4 was tied at 6 each when Spring Hill rattled off what might be its most important 7-point run of the season to take a 13-6 cushion. Shorter rebounded, however, to cut their deficit to 14-13 before the Badgers moved back up 17-13. The Hawks twice came within one point of tying the set at 22-21 and at 24-23, but SHC would tie the match 2-2 with a 25-23 win.
The rejuvenated Badgers charged out to a commanding 10-3 lead in the decisive fifth set and held a tantalizing 14-5 lead, but Shorter would not leave quietly, making SHC sweat through three more points before the Badgers took the 15-8 victory.
Spring Hill's junior right side hitter Yiting Cao of Shanghai, China, scored her second highest kill total of the year with 27 and served up three service aces for a total of 31 points scored.
Freshman setter Taryn Nash of Independence, Mo., dished out a Badger season-high of 58 assists and freshman libero Meredith Donald from Mobile's McGill-Toolen Catholic High tallied 32 receptions.
On defense, Abbey Roam of Lebanon, Mo., had 18 digs and Sha Sha Buchanan of McGill-Toolen recorded five block assists.
As a team, the Badgers scored 70 total kills off 66 assists for an attack percentage of .292 to go with 75 digs and six total blocks.
Shorter was led by Ashley Walton with 19 kills, Loren Olive with 16 digs and three aces. Jordan Corder had 49 of the Hawks' 56 assists and Jessica Copper had seven block assists.
In total, SU had 61 kills, 12 aces, 66 digs and 10 blocks.
Spring Hill (27-4) will face No. 1 rated Lee University (34-0) for the 2010 SSAC Championship at 6 p.m. Saturday.