KINGSPORT, Tenn. - Union clawed its way to the Appalachian Athletic Conference Volleyball Tournament championship match, but the Bulldogs came up short in the end as top-seeded Bryan (Tenn.) swept Union 3-0 on Friday.
"We played real hard this weekend, but perhaps we ran out of gas as the game-five victory right before teh championship match may have taken its toll on the team," Union coach Jeremy Wise said. "I am proud of the turnaround the team made and how close they came to the championship and nationals. Hopefully, they enjoyed the journey and will come back next year ready to go to the next level."
Union finishes the 2013 season with a 26-9 overall record. The nine losses are the second fewest in program history. Union went 29-5 in 2009.
The second-seeded Bulldogs opened the day having to fight for their lives in a 3-2, slugfest against No. 3 seed Columbia (S.C.).
The Koalas (17-13 overall) led throughout the first set, but the Bulldogs rallied to force the frame to extra. However, Columbia pulled out the 26-24 win. Union fought back and claimed the second set 25-17; yet Columbia took the third 25-23 for a 2-1 match lead. The Bulldogs even the match with a 25-17, fourth-set win.
In the fifth and decisive set, Union was able to build a 5-6 point cushion and held on for the 15-11 to advance to the championship game.
Four Bulldogs delivered double-digit kills with Karina Ramos and Caity Merritt leading the way with 17 each. Paige Moore had 13, while Julia Edmonds added 10. Heather Fields had 52 assists and 15 digs, while Ana Calaza registered 28 digs.
In the championship match, Bryan played like a team on a mission, jumping out to early leads in every set on its way to the championship.
Union battled hard in the opening set but was not able to rally for the win as Bryan collected the 25-20 win. The Lions dominated the next two sets, winning both by the identical score of 25-11 to complete the sweep.
Kara Stamper and Carolyn Evans led Bryan (33-3 overall) with 12 and 11 kills, respectively, and Taylor Fink posted 35 assists.
Ramos led Union with seven kills.
For their efforts, Ramos and Fields made the All-Tournament. Evans for Bryan was the MVP with teammates Stamper and Fink also making the squad. Jacqui Anderson of Columbia and Denise De Vine of Reinhardt also made the All-Tournament.