Charleston, WV – This year will go down as one of the most successful seasons in Lake-Sumter State College athletics history. The amazing run came to an end Friday afternoon with a four set loss to Catawba Valley.
After taking down Oakland CC Friday morning, LSSC faced off against the No. 10 seed Catawba Valley CC out of North Carolina. The Raiders came into the tournament ranked 15th in the latest NJCAA national poll.
CVCC was able to get an 8-2 lead before the Lakehawks started closing the gap. Lake-Sumter would get within one, 16-15, but could not get any closer dropping the first set, 25-19. Set two was a similar contest with LSSC chasing the Raiders, but always missing that run to go ahead. Amber Schwartz found a groove at the end getting her team close scoring three straight points. It was too little, too late with the Raiders taking the 25-22 victory.
If there were one set this entire season that displayed the talent of this Lakehawk squad, it was set three in the third game at Nationals. The Lakehawks hit the court with vengeance and did everything right to the tune of a 14-3 lead. Then… disaster struck with a 10 minute delay due to technical difficulty at the scorer's table. The delay allowed Catawba Valley to regroup, which they did going on an 8-2 run, getting right back in the game. Although it got close at the end, LSSC never relinquished the lead, winning the set 25-22.
Set four was a high intensity back and forth battle early on. Up on the Raiders, 17-14, Catawba Valley pulled off a 6-0 run to take a 20-17 lead. The Lakehawks had exhausted all of their energy to get to that point and could not mount a comeback, falling 25-18.
Emma Gray finished with a team high 13.5 points with nine digs. Casey James notched her best match of the year with 11 points, two solo blocks and two block assists hitting .462 on the day. Amanda Berecz continues to be a VIP member at the 25 dig club totaling 28 in the contest. In her final match, Gabriela Hernandez tallied 34 assists, giving her 942 on the season.
After not receiving a single vote in the NJCAA national poll the entire season, the Lakehawks will finish tied for 11th at the Division II National Championships. "This has been an incredible experience," said Head Coach, Amanda Phelps. "I could not be more proud of this team's hard work, discipline and dedication. I hope they see now that they deserved to be here and this should become the new normal for our program."
This team became the first program at Lake-Sumter to make a trip to the national tournament. Phelps went on to say, "I also want to thank our administration for all their support and a big thank you to our Athletic Director, Mike Matulia, for helping to make this experience happen."
This season brought about many memorable moments for the Lakehawks. It was the first winning season since 2003, they defeated four nationally ranked programs, first regional championship, first trip to Nationals, resulting in the first win at a National Tournament for any Lake-Sumter athletics program. A banner will hang in the Everett A. Kelly Convocation Center as a result of what this group accomplished this season. It is an exclamation point on 2018 and a representation of the words, "we belong."