2019 NCAA Volleyball Tournament Preview: #20 Transylvania makes NCAA Tournament debut against Birmingham-Southern in Atlanta on Friday night

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ATLANTA – The No. 20 Transylvania volleyball team will make its NCAA Division III Women's Volleyball Tournament debut on Friday, November 13 against the Birmingham-Southern College Tigers in a 5:30 p.m. first-round matchup at the Woodruff P.E. Center on the campus of Emory University.

The Pioneers (27-4, 9-0 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference) enter the Atlanta, Georgia Regional as the regional's No. 5 seed and will take on No. 4 seed Birmingham-Southern (24-6, 13-1) in the eight-team regional hosted by Emory, the defending national champions.

This weekend's inaugural trip into the 64-team NCAA Tournament marks a defining milestone for the Transylvania volleyball program, which will compete in the first NCAA Tournament match in the 18-year history of the program against Birmingham-Southern.

Friday's first-round tournament matchup serves as the second time the Pioneers, regular-season and conference tournament champions of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, have faced Birmingham-Southern, the regular-season champion of the Southern Athletic Association, in the 2019 season.

The Pioneers secured a ticket to the NCAA Tournament by sweeping Earlham College in three sets on Sunday in the 2019 HCAC Conference Tournament Championship, clinching the conference's automatic bid. After falling to Berry College in straight sets last Saturday's SAA Championship, the Tigers received an at-large bid to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Birmingham-Southern is making its third straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

The teams last squared off at 6,035 feet above sea level in Colorado Springs, Colorado on September 14 in the Pikes Peak Challenge on the campus of Colorado College with the Pioneers winning 24-26, 25-20, 25-17, 25-20.

Friday's opening round schedule features four matches, leading off with regional No. 3 seed Colorado College facing No. 6 seed Whitworth at 12:30 p.m., followed by No. 2 seed Berry vs. No. 7 Maryville (Tenn.) at 3:00 p.m. The Transy vs. Birmingham-Southern match will be the third of the day at 5:30 p.m. while Emory will finish off the night against Notre Dame (Md.) at 8:00 p.m. The winner of Transylvania and Birmingham-Southern will square off against the winner of Emory and Notre Dame on Saturday at 5:00 p.m.

 

ATLANTA REGIONAL SCHEDULE (All matches played at Woodruff P.E. Center on campus of Emory University)

Friday, Nov. 15

Match 1 – 12:30 pm – Colorado College (30-4) vs. Whitworth (20-5)
Match 2 – 3:00 pm – Berry College (26-5) vs. Maryville College (27-6)
Match 3 – 5:30 pm – Birmingham Southern (24-6) vs. Transylvania (27-4)
Match 4 – 8:00 pm – Emory  (29-2) vs. Notre Dame of Maryland University (25-3)

Saturday, Nov. 16
Match 5 – 2:30 pm  - Match 1 winner vs. Match 2 winner
Match 6 – 5:00 pm – Match 3 winner vs. Match 4 winner

Sunday, Nov. 17
2:00 pm – Championship Match

 

TICKET INFORMATION (CASH ONLY)

Single-session Prices

Students w/ ID & Seniors - $4.00
Adults - $6.00
Childer under 12 - $3.00
Children 2 and under – Free

 

All-Session Pass

Students w/ ID & Seniors - $10.00
Adults - $12.00
Children under 12 - $7.00
Children 2 and under – Free

 

LOCATION: Woodruff P.E. Center at Emory University- DIRECTIONS

26 Eagle Row
Atlanta, GA 30322

COACH OF THE YEAR CLASH: The first-round matchup pits a showdown between two conference powers. Transylvania volleyball head coach Amy Barmore in in her second year at the helm of the Pioneers and carries a record of 42-15 (.737) into the Pioneers' first NCAA Tournament match; after leading the Pioneers to a program-record 27 wins and their first undefeated run through both HCAC regular-season and conference tournament play, Barmore was named the HCAC Coach of the Year for 2019. Birmingham-Southern is coached by Haven O'Quinn, who is in her third year overseeing the Tigers and boasts a career record of 69-22 (.758). O'Quinn also notched conference coach of the year honors in the SAA after steering the Tigers to the regular-season title with a 13-1 record.

 

HIGH OCTANE OFFENSE: The Pioneers enter the tournament as one of the most powerful offenses in the nation, ranking fourth in the nation in kills per set (14.01 kps), 12th in the country in hitting percentage (.248) and 10th in assists per set (12.77 per set).

Transylvania boasts a star-studded frontline led by newly-crowned HCAC Offensive Player of the Year, junior middle blocker Ellie Stigger (Louisville, Ky. / Sacred Heart Academy). The 6-foot-1 junior led the HCAC in kills at 4.24 kps, blocks per set at 1.04 bps, and hitting percentage at .392. Stigger enters the NCAA Tournament coming off a monster performance in the HCAC title match, tallying 15 kills against just one error for a .519 hitting percentage and two blocks against Earlham.

Senior setter Hannah Talkers (Villa Hills, Ky. / Notre Dame Academy) will make her NCAA Tournament debut after building towards an NCAA berth during her four-year career at Transy. The 2017 HCAC Offensive Player of the Year and four-time All-HCAC selection ranks 10th in the nation in assists with 10.75 per set and serves as the anchor point of the Pioneers' offense. Talkers earned HCAC Tournament Most Valuable Player honors after putting up a match-high 37 assists, 17 digs, six kills, and one block in the HCAC Championship.

Senior right-side hitter Jordan Horne (Louisville, Ky. / Male HS) is a formidable offensive finishing force for the Pioneers, finishing third in conference in kills with 382 and eighth in the HCAC with 64 blocks; like Talkers, Horne is a four-time All-HCAC award-winner and captured the 2018 HCAC Offensive Player of the Year award. Horne had an outing to remember last time the Tigers and Pioneers converged in Colorado, delivering a career-high 26 kills. In three matches during the Pioneers' stay in Colorado, Horne notched 42 kills and was named along with Talkers to the Pikes Peak Challenge All-Tournament Team.

 

A RECORD-SETTING YEAR: Led by a program-record 27 wins and a program-best 27-4 overall record for an .871 winning percentage, the Pioneers have set a vast collection of records and established more than their fair share of team and individual milestone during the 2019 season.

For the first time in the 18-year history of the program, Transylvania went undefeated during HCAC regular-season play with a record of 9-0 to grab its second-straight regular season title. The Pioneers completed their pre-NCAA Tournament season by winning the HCAC Tournament Championship for the first time in four appearances with a three-set win over Earlham College in the championship match, subsequently stamping their ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever. The unprecedented program achievements paved the way for a treasure trove of team and individual milestones in 2019:

-Three wins against top 25 teams (3-0 vs. #6 Wittenberg, Aug. 30, 3-0 vs. #20 Mary Hardin-Baylor, Sept. 7, 3-2 vs. #7 Colorado College, Sept. 13)

-First time entering the AVCA Top 25 (Week 3), ascended as high as #18 in the nation (Week 4)

-Pair of record-setting win streaks (12 matches starting Sept. 3 vs. Centre through Sept. 25 vs. Maryville), (13 matches starting October 2 at Spalding – Present)

-First time a Pioneer volleyball player has been selected for AVCA All-Region honors (Talkers, Stigger - All-Region Team for Great Lakes, Horne – Honorable Mention)

-Ellie Stigger was named the 2019 HCAC Offensive Player of the year, becoming the third straight Pioneer to win the award (Jordan Horne – 2018, Hannah Talkers – 2017)  

-Hannah Talkers became the all-time program career assists leader on Oct. 12 in a 3-1 win at Bluffton with her 3,493rd career assist. Talkers currently has 3,857 assists. In the same match, Talkers became the sixth Pioneer in program history to record her 200th career block.

-Ellie Stigger became the fourth Pioneer to achieve her 200th career block on Sept. 14 against Birmingham-Southern and now has 249 for her career. Horne became the fifth Pioneer to amass her 200th career block on Sept. 21 vs Ohio Wesleyan.

-Hannah Talkers became the sixth Pioneer in program history to reach 1,000 career digs on Aug. 30 in the season-opener against #6 Wittenberg. Abby Wills later in the season became the seventh Pioneer to reach 1,000 digs on Sept. 29 at #25 Muskingum

-Jordan Horne became the sixth Pioneer to achieve 1,000 career kills on Sept. 7 vs. Mary Hardin-Baylor and has since risen to third all-time in career kills with 1,304

 

TIGER FIREPOWER:  

The Tigers are led by senior Rebecca Erwin, who ranks second nationally in blocks and blocks per set at 1.61 blocks per set. Erwin is fourth on the Tigers in kills and has accrued 262 kills this season. Erwin reeled off 10 blocks versus the Pioneers in their September nonconference match. The senior middle blocker is one of two All-SAA First teamers for the Tigers in 2019.

Milea Ray leads the team in kills with 285 and has totaled 60 blocks in the 2019 season on the way to claiming All-SAA honors. Against the Pioneers, Ray, a senior outside hitter, powered her way to 15 kills against seven errors, 10 digs, and three blocks.

Outside hitter Alyssa Coats is the newly-crowned SAA Newcomer of the Year. Coats finished second on the Tigers in kills with 275 and averaged 2.62 kills per set. Coats added 245 digs and 36 blocks in a stellar initial season. Coats scattered 13 kills, six digs, four blocks, and an assist against the Pioneers in their last meeting.

Middle blocker Julia Denby (.278 hitting percentage, 2.56 kills per set), libero Caroline Johnson (5.13 digs per set), and frontliner Leah Nielsen (14th in nation – blocks per set, 1.13 bps) are other standout players for the Tigers who will factor heavily into Friday's NCAA Tournament showdown.

 

PAST DANCE: The Pioneers and Birmingham-Southern notably faced off earlier in the 2019 regular season in Transylvania's third and final match of the Pikes Peak Invitational on Sunday, November 13 on the campus of Colorado College. After dropping a tightly-waged opening set, the Pioneers responded with a 24-26, 25-20, 25-17, 25-21 win, extending their then-winning streak to eight matches. The win elevated Transylvania to 7-1 in their early slate while Birmingham-Southern fell to 6-2.

Sylvie Miller came up with a match-high 23 digs to Caroline Johnson's 21 digs. Transylvania outgained B-SC 83-61 in digs and 61-51 in kills. Talkers delivered a line of 47 assists, 15 digs, six kills, one ace, and one block.

B-SC used a high-powered run in the first set to seize it away from Transy. In the second set, Transylvania showed off its dig volume, building upon a 7-1 lead to hold the Tigers to just nine kills. Transylvania opened up an 18-9 lead in the third set for a 2-1 set lead. In the fourth and final set, the Pioneers broke open a 17-17 tie as Horne carried the team down the stretch, amassing the final few of her career-high 26 kills for the big win going away.

Transylvania produced a .226 hitting percentage against the Tigers' .128 hitting percentage. While the Tigers won the blocks category 13-7, the frontline power of Transylvania was too much to handle as Stigger, Horne, and Glass combined for 48 kills.   

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