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Sixth-seeded Redhawks reach OVC title match
Southeast will play regular-season champion Jacksonville State in today's final.
JACKSONVILLE, Ala. -- Even though her team barely qualified for the Ohio Valley Conference volleyball tournament, Southeast Missouri State coach Renata Nowacki was confident.
In fact, Nowacki said prior to leaving for Alabama that she would be disappointed if the Redhawks didn't at least make the championship match.
Nowacki's faith in the Redhawks has been rewarded.
Southeast, seeded last in the six-team tournament, pulled off its second straight upset, sweeping second-seeded Tennessee State 30-27, 30-25, 30-26 in Friday's semifinals.
The Redhawks (16-17), who slipped past third-seeded Murray State in five games in Thursday's first round, will play top-seeded and host Jacksonville State at 2 p.m. today for the title. The winner advances to the NCAA tournament.
"We're coming together at exactly the right time," Nowacki said. "We set a goal from day one of preseason to be playing for the championship of the conference tournament, and we've overcome a lot of obstacles to get there."
Senior Jessica Koeper, a first-team all-OVC selection for the second straight year, had a match-high 19 kills to pace the Redhawks. The former Jackson High School star added 10 digs.
Senior setter Jamie Baumstark also had a double-double with 34 assists and 13 digs.
Freshmen defensive specialists Molly Davis and Taylor Harbster added 12 and 11 digs, respectively. Harbster also had three service aces.
Erika Godbolt paced the Tigers (20-14) with 11 kills.
"We really relied on our defense and passing to get us through this match," Nowacki said.
Now the Redhawks will try to record their third straight upset victory -- and this challenge could be the toughest one yet.
Jacksonville State (23-4) rolled through its 16-match OVC schedule without a loss, becoming just the seventh team in league history to do so. The Gamecocks cruised into the final with a 30-24, 30-26, 30-26 win over No. 5 Morehead State in the semifinals Friday.
Not only did the Gamecocks go undefeated in OVC play, they dropped only one game all year -- against Southeast during a 3-1 home victory last Saturday.
The Gamecocks swept the Redhawks when the teams played in Cape Girardeau.
Yet Nowacki is confident the Redhawks can continue to be by far the tournament's biggest surprise.
"We match up nicely with them," Nowacki said. "With our confidence these last two matches ... hopefully our confidence will take us a long way in this match."