Dec. 1, 2007
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CLEMSON, SC – The careers of four Tiger seniors ended on Saturday night as the 20th-ranked Clemson volleyball team fell to #8-seed UCLA, 3-1 (30-19, 30-21, 19-30, 30-22), in the second round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament at Jervey Gym.
Sue Eckman, Courtney Lawrence, Leslie Mansfield and Meghan Steiner helped lead the 2007 squad to an ACC Championship and its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1999. The team made its mark in the Clemson annuals, setting numerous records along the way and finishing with a 29-4 overall record.
However, the experience and talent of the Bruin team, which reached the semifinals of the 2006 tournament, proved to be too much for the Tigers and UCLA (22-10) advanced to the Stanford regional to be held on Dec. 7-8.
“It is always tough to lose, but I am really proud of how hard we battled, ” said Clemson Head Coach Jolene Jordan Hoover. “When you are down 2-0, it is pretty hard to come back on a good team like UCLA. I was impressed with how hard we kept fighting.”
The Tiger offense was held to just 46 kills in the match as the Bruins played extremely well defensively. They tallied 89 digs in just for games for a remarkable 22.3 per game average. Kaitlin Sather led four UCLA players in double figure digs with 21.
After the first game, Clemson held its own on defensive with 63 digs and 11 team blocks in the final three sets. Didem Ege, one of five Tigers in double figures, finished with 23 defensive saves, while junior Danielle Hepburn totaled eight block assists and setter Kelsey Murphy added seven at the net.
Hepburn, who set a school record with a .395 hitting percentage for the season, also recorded a team-best 14 kills on Saturday night.
“This year has been a blessing for me and my team has backed me up the whole year,” Hepburn said. “We had some great passes and some great sets. This team has been amazingly consistent all season.”
Sather also paced the Bruin offense with 19 kills, while setter Nellie Spicer tallied 54 assists with 13 digs and three service aces.
An 11-1 run in the first game gave the Bruins a 22-10 advantage and UCLA went on to win the game 30-19.
Clemson limited the Bruin rallies in game two but was unable to put together any of its own and fell, 30-21.
The Tigers finally adjusted to the UCLA offense in the third game and posted eight total blocks with 20 digs in the frame. Hepburn and Murphy combined to block Bruin attacks for points #2 and #4 to set the tone for the game. Clemson led by as many as 10 early on and withstood a UCLA rally that cut the margin to five at 23-18. The Tigers then sealed the 30-19 win on a block by Hepburn and Lia Proctor.
The two teams then battled in the fourth game that saw nine tie scores. With the game knotted at 16 apiece, Murphy was called for a back-row attack that swung the momentum to the Bruins. A 7-2 UCLA run put them on top for good, as the Tigers could not recover and the Bruins clinched the trip to the NCAA regionals.
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