Augusta, Ga. — The University of South Carolina’s fifth-ranked Aiken volleyball team defeated No. 1 Augusta 3-1 in Friday night’s PBC semifinals.
The Pacers improve to 19-12 for the season while the Jaguars are at 24-7. This is the first PBC Finals appearance for USC Aiken since the 2015 season.
Set results were 25-22, 23-25, 28-26, 25-18.
Head coach Glenn Cox’s team was led by Emily Lammers’ double-double performance with a career and match-high 27 kills and 16 digs. Kaitlyn Rodriguez had 12 kills and 11 digs for a double-double.
Sadie McKay and Anna Sommer each had seven kills. McKay contributed 13 digs to the win.
Mallory Barash dished out 44 assists to go to victory with 16 digs and four match-best aces. She also scored four kills.
Kari Mercer led the defense with 24 best attacks and narrowly missed a double-double with nine assists.
Jazmyn Wheeler led Augusta with 12 kills and added seven digs. Kayli Cleaver added eight kills while Alexis Diaz-Infante had seven. Samantha Zittrauer led the Jaguars with 24 assists while Dariana Luna had 18 digs.
The loss will end Augusta’s four-year winning streak at the PBC tournament. The Jaguars are in lockdown to secure a general NCAA tournament bid when the pick is announced Sunday night.
Trailing 6-5 in the first set, Cox’s team started a 4-0 run. After an attacking error knotted the result, McKay hit the court twice before Barash served an ace for a 9-6 lead. Barash led 12-10 and took a pass from Lammers for a kill. Shortly thereafter, a slam by Sommer made it 15:11. With a 15-14 lead, Brooke Wroten hammered home a kill. Two games later, Barash hit back-to-back aces for a 19-14 advantage. USC Aiken led 22-20 before Barash cut through the defense with a kill. A kill from Barash finished the set 25-22.
After losing the second set 25-23, the Pacers rallied in the third frame. USC Aiken trailed 15-8 in the third stanza and responded with back-to-back kills from Lammers. A mistake made it 15-11. However, the Jaguars led 22-14, increasing the lead to 24-16. However, a serve error by the home team started a run of historic proportions for the Pacers.
While Barash was serving, Lammers pulled off back-to-back kills. An ace by Barash made it 24-20. Three straight errors by the Jaguars made it 24-23. A kill from McKay tied the score at 24-24 and an error gave the Pacers a one-point lead. However, Augusta scored the next two points for a 26-25 lead. Then USC Aiken returned to all-conference performer for back-to-back points and a 27-26 lead. A mistake by Augusta gave the Pacers a 28-26 win.
USC Aiken led 11-9 in the fourth set and put on a 9-2 run. During the sprint, Rodriguez had a kill while Lammers added four points. Lammers found the court again with a score of 21:17. Two plays later, Rodriguez increased the score to 24-17. At 24-18, Rodriguez sent the Pacers into the PBC Finals with a thunderous kill.
The Pacers return for the PBC championship against No. 3 Flagler in Augusta on Saturday. The game is scheduled to start at 1 p.m