Not only did the Lady Flames hand the Badgers their first defeat of the 2011 season, they also avenged an earlier defeat to the Alabama squad.
After a slow start, Lee regrouped and took the first set 25-22. In game two, the Lady Flames jumped out to a 12-0 lead and never looked back in the 25-17 romp. Senior Stephanie Todd, who earned a spot on the all-tournament team, served Lee out to its large lead.
As expected, Spring Hill came fighting back and secured the third set, 25-20, but once again in game four, Lee took control behind the serving of Christa Hutchison and mounted a 19-4 lead before ending the battle with a 25-21 decision.
It was the 30th win of the year against only two defeats for coach Andrea Hudson’s club. "I felt pretty good about our chances," said the veteran coach after the big win. "We had some key players injured when we faced Spring Hill earlier. They have a real good team and I’m not surprised that they took one game from us."
Lee posted some tremendous individual statistics but assistant coach Kevin Hudson pointed out that this was certainly an overall team effort. Senior Arlene Ferreira apparently has completely recovered from off-season knee surgery. She had a career high 23 kills, a couple of aces, 18 digs and seven blocks. The NAIA All-American was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
Overall, Lee had 63 kills. Marija Zelenovic registered 11 kills and three blocks. Lauren Williams joined Hutchison on the all-tournament team and came up with nine kills (.600 attack percentage) and a remarkable 11 blocks. Todd stepped up and played a versatile role with seven kills, two aces, nine digs and three blocks. Hutchison also had seven kills, a pair of aces and four blocks.
Andrea Hudson heaped praise on sophomore libero Libby Piegen. "I told Libby I was really proud of her effort," said the coach. Piegen would make most coaches happy. She finished the night with a match-high 25 digs.
Both of Lee’s setters recorded double-doubles. Kelsey Leffew racked up 32 assists and had 11 digs. Gretchen Higdon dished off 22 assists and walked away with 10 digs. Overall, the Lady Flames had 81 digs, 30 blocks and 63 kills in the impressive win. Spring Hill tried to battle back with All-American Yiting Cao. The SSAC Player of the Year had 19 kills, 13 digs and a couple of blocks. Cassandra Marchand-Stewart had nine kills, while Sha Sha Buchanan was active at the net with 11 blocks and Taryn Nash came up with 39 assists and 13 digs.
Both teams will await their national tournament fate. By virtue of the victory, the Lady Flames will draw a national tournament opening round bye. They will travel directly to the national championship in Sioux City, Iowa, scheduled Nov. 29-Dec. 3.