College of Charleston’s volleyball squad disrupted the status quo, taking out No. 23 Miami in five sets in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday.
“It was a great match. I’m so proud of this team and so proud of how they battled,” said head coach Jason Kepner. “Miami is a great team, and we were very fortunate to be put into a position to get a win against (them).”
Charleston entered the weekend the first round of the NCAA Tournament, held in Gainesville, Fla., ranked in the RPI Top 50 for the first time under Kepner, sitting at 48th.
In Friday’s rollercoaster match, the Canes came out strong, putting the College at a sizeable disadvantage before the Cougars found their footing and took the first set, 25-22.
The next two sets went to the Canes, whose late-set antics were enough to fend off the hungry Cougars.
As the fourth set kicked off, Miami seemed to be marching toward victory, taking a 9-5 advantage before Charleston went on a run to tie the set at 12-all. Sloane White’s unwavering confidence gave the Cougars their final two kills to take the set, 25-22.
At the start of the fifth and final set, a place the Cougars have ventured to only five times this season with a 4-1 record, Charleston appeared confident in its chances.
Miami’s aggressive and quick offense gave them an early advantage, but the Cougars’ steady play kept them in contention.
Darcy Dorton’s back-to-back kills gave Charleston an edge and they held on, ending the match with a kill from White at 15-10.
The win over the Canes was the first time in program history that the Cougars have downed a ranked opponent, and only the second time the squad has advanced to the second round of NCAA tournament play.
Dorton led the Cougars with a career-high 27 kills and notched a double-double, adding 17 digs.
White tallied 17 kills and an impressive .441 hitting percentage, with help from Melissa Morello, who had 11 kills and 10 digs.
After the match, Kepner spoke about his team’s ability to rally from behind.
“I think we’ve ridden on emotions this entire year,” Kepner said. “When we can get our emotions in control and really use it to our advantage, the team is much more successful. I think we really did a good job of that in games four and five.”
The Cougars faced No. 15 Florida on Saturday, falling to the Southeastern Conference champions, 3-0, on the Gators’ home court. Charleston ended one of the most successful seasons in team history at 27-8.