#3 Radford Earns Berth to Big South Volleyball Finals

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CHARLESTON, S.C. - Radford bounced back from a 2-0 deficit and stunned second-seeded Winthrop, 3-2, (20-25, 15-25, 25-20, 25-21, 15-13) in the semifinals of the 2011 Big South Volleyball Tournament Friday evening. With the win, the Highlanders advance to their first championship since 2001, where they will meet top-seeded Liberty Sunday at 2 p.m.

After the first two defeats, the Highlanders (17-14) turned the tables and forced a fifth set. Carrying the momentum, Radford used a 7-2 run to take a commanding 14-8 lead. However, the Lady Eagles (20-9) would not go down quietly as they pushed across five straight points to make it 14-13. The surge was ended and the comeback completed when freshman Rachel Wiechecki (Wilmington, Del./Ursuline Academy) slammed home her team-best 13th kill for a 15-13 triumph.

Wiechecki registered her team-best seventh double-double with 19 digs. Senior Carly Fleming (Manassas, Va./Osbourne Park) added 10 kills and a season-best seven total blocks (one solo).

Freshman Rachel Brummitt (Plano, Texas/Plano West) recorded a match-high 30 digs, her fourth 30-plus dig performance of the season.

The third-seeded Highlanders (17-14) last faced the same Lady Flames in the 2001 Championship, which Liberty came out on top, 3-1. The team's also met in 1999, a 3-2 victory for the Flames.

Radford got off to slow starts in games one and two and dug itself into an early 0-2 deficit. The Eagles, behind .359 and .257 attack percentages, raced out to 10-3 and 9-3 leads they would never relinquish for 25-20 and 25-15 victories.

Behind a 8-0 spurt, Radford took command of game three, 12-4. The Eagles would cut the deficit to 22-20 before a service error and back-to-back attack errors by Winthrop put Radford right back into the match.

The Highlanders erased a 12-8 deficit in game four with a 9-2 run and led the rest of the way to even the match at 2-2. After Winthrop got within, 22-21, a kill by sophomore Jesse Miedema (Huron, Ohio) ended the late surge. Following an error, Miedema and Fleming combined on a block to send it to a deciding fifth set.

Miedema finished with eight kills (.318) and five block assists. A trio of setters saw time for the Highlanders, led by freshman Christine Beckham's (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge) 19 assists. She also chipped in with two aces.

Junior Emily Hayes (Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett) and sophomore Emily Carlin (Downington, Pa./Bishop Shanahan) added seven and six kills, respectively. Carlin also helped out with 13 digs and three service aces.

Winthrop was paced offensively by redshirt junior Brittany Blackman and senior Becca Toor who both played their final games in Winthrop uniforms. Blackman closed out the night with 17 kills and .412 hitting percentage as Toor followed her with 13 kills. As a team, the Eagle offense tallied 62 kills and a .219 hitting percentage. Defensively, Winthrop had five players finish in double-digit digs as freshman Catherine Brusie led the way with 29 on the night. Brusie finished the season with 451 digs which ranks seventh in Winthrop history. Sophomore Carly DeBruhl was behind Brusie with 18 digs and following DeBruhl was junior Kristin Cruse, sophomore Stephanie Palmer and freshman Lauren Landsman all with 15 digs. Palmer also dished out 45 of Winthrop's 58 assists as she was a kill away from her third triple-double of the season.