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@BamaStateVB dominates Alabama A&M for third-straight SWAC title (270 hits)

Bennett (20 kills), Mederis (17), Martin (five blocks) and Kutsch (47 assists) lead charge

Not all championships are created equal.

Alabama State's four-set victory in Sunday's championship match against Alabama A&M (25-13, 25-15, 22-25, 25-19) was its third in as many years. It was also the fifth championship in six years.

The Lady Hornets (23-17) had to fight a little more on the 2018 journey, overcoming a disappointing early-season setback in conference play before finding their identity late and reeling off 13 straight wins to close out the season.

"I learned more as a coach than I ever have with this team because I had to find a way to reach them and they had to find a way to me and that's the struggle we dealt with all year but I am so appreciative that we never stopped trying and we never stopped reaching out," head coach Penny Lucas-White said.

Bayle' Bennett was named the tournament's most outstanding player following her third double-double of the weekend (20 kills, 10 digs, four service aces, .312 attack percentage). Fellow junior Krysta Medearis joined her on the all-tournament team with 17 kills. Seniors Candace Martin (eight kills, five blocks) and Kori Kutsch (47 assists, 10 digs, three kills, one service ace) capped off their SWAC career with monumental outings and were also awarded spots on the all-tournament team. Kutsch moved into sole possession in the Alabama State record books with career service ace No. 133 while Martin's five blocks moved her into fifth-overall and gives her an even 300 for her career.

Four Lady Hornets reached the double-digit dig plateau with Kayla Torres posting a game-high 16 and Imanie Williams chipping in with 11.

"It was a phenomenal match. They were prepared. They were ready. They were excited. They just wanted to get to today and you could tell because they weren't really focused on yesterday's match even though they had to take care of business, but they were so excited to play today," Lucas-White said.

The Lady Hornets learn their NCAA tournament fate Sunday, November 25th.

The story of the opening set was all about the serve. Alabama State had six service aces as Bennett (three), Morgan Freeman (two) and Kutsch (one) propelled the Lady Hornets into an early advantage. The Lady Hornets were also the beneficiary of two Alabama A&M service errors and cruised to the opening set victory behind a balanced attack that saw six Alabama State players record a kill, led by Bennett's six. Alabama State was laser-sharp, hitting a tournament-high .333 in the frame.

Kutsch continued to distribute the wealth in the second frame as five different players recorded a kill to build a 13-7 lead and force a Lady Bulldogs' timeout. Clark, Cottingham and Martin began to patrol the court with authority as the trio accounted for five blocks over the next 12 points, nullifying the formidable Alabama A&M front line and Bennett secured the set with another emphatic spike.

Alabama A&M showed life in the third stanza, building a 14-10 lead to force the first Alabama State timeout of the match. Medearis, a second-team All-SWAC performer, turned up the intensity in frame, putting away seven attacks and the Lady Hornets stormed back from a 24-17 deficit to make the Lady Bulldogs sweat before Alabama A&M closed out the set.

After a quiet third set, first-team outside hitter Bennett asserted herself in the fourth frame, picking up kill No. 13 and 14 to lead Alabama State out to an 8-5 advantage. The Lady Hornets net presence continued to show up, with Medearis and Martin joining forces for a pair of blocks and Alabama State built a 15-10 lead. Williams spurred the Lady Hornets on a 4-0 run with an array of well-placed serves and Alabama State dictated the pace in the final set before Medearis slammed home her 17th kill for the final point of the match.

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For complete coverage of Alabama State volleyball, follow the Lady Hornets on social media at @BamaStateVB (Twitter), /BamaStateSports (Facebook) and @BamaStateSports (Instagram) or visit the official home of Alabama State Athletics at BamaStateSports.com.

Posted By: Elly Moss
Sunday, November 18th 2018 at 10:52PM
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