Peach Belt Volleyball Tournament to Begin on Friday
AUGUSTA, GA – Local rivalries and two heavy hitters set the stage for the 21st annual Peach Belt Conference volleyball championship which begins on Friday at the George A. Christenberry Fieldhouse in Augusta, Ga. The first round of the tournament will feature two matchups of local rivals as Francis Marion takes on UNC Pembroke and USC Aiken faces Augusta State. The other two first-round games feature two teams ranked the PBC’s top-25 with Armstrong Atlantic State and Flagler both 13-1 in the league this year and regular-season co-champions.
The tournament will begin with four quarterfinal matches on Friday at 1:00, 3:00, 5:00 and 7:00 pm. The semifinals will be held Saturday at 4:00 and 6:00 pm with the championship match on Sunday at 2:00. The winner of the PBC Tournament receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament next week.
Armstrong Atlantic State is the top seed in the tournament after setting a Peach Belt record by winning their first 31 games in a row to begin the season. It is the longest winning streak in league history and the best start to a season for any PBC team and is tied for the 18th-longest winning streak in NCAA history. Ranked 19th nationally, the Pirates win with a remarkable combination of offense and defense, leading the league in blocks and opponent hitting percentage and second in hitting percentage on attack. Brendyce Budd, Leia Pittman and Brittany Wolf have all been named PBC Players of the Week; Pittman and Wolf are ranked 1st and 2nd in the league in blocks, while setter Ashley Seal has been a Specialist of the Week twice and is second in the league in assists. Armstrong will be seeking their third PBC Tournament crown, their first since 2008.
Flagler joined the Peach Belt to begin the 2009 season and have not lost a PBC Tournament game. The two-time defending league champions won a share of their third-straight regular-season championship, falling to the #2 seed only after losing a narrow tiebreaker to Armstrong. The Saints will be playing with emotion as head coach Taylor Mott announced she will be leaving the program following the season after 13 years at the helm. The 24th-ranked Saints have the talent to win their third league title with senior setter Olivia Snipes running the offense. Snipes leads the league and is ranked 10th nationally with 11.45 assists per set and with her guiding the offense, the Saints lead the league in hitting percentage. Crystal Niederriter is second in the PBC in hitting percentage while Emilee Taylor is fifth in total kills. Libero Casey Gnann is second in the PBC in digs.
UNC Pembroke is the third seed and finished with a .500 record or better in conference play for the first time since 1994. The Braves finished 7-7 in league play and won a tiebreaker with USC Aiken. UNCP brings the second-longest winning streak into the PBC Tournament with four in a row, all against conference opponents. The Braves lead the league in services aces and are third in digs. Libero Marissa Baker leads the league with 5.50 digs per match and has been named a PBC Specialist of the Week. Rebecca Morgan has been named a Player of the Week and is third in the league in total kills and fourth in aces.
USC Aiken won back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007 and will be looking for their sixth overall tournament Championship in Augusta. The Pacers were 7-7 in league play and are the fourth seed in the tournament. The Pacers are one of the best defensive teams in the league at the net; ranked second in opponent hitting percentage and blocks. Libero Samantha Lukralle was named the PBC’s Libero/Defensive Specialist of the Year in 2010 and is fourth in the league in digs in 2011. Hannah Tierney leads the Pacers in hitting percentage while Shannon Byers leads the team in total kills.
USC Aiken will be facing off against rival and fifth-seeded Augusta State in the first quarterfinal. ASU hosts the tournament for the fourth time, the first since 2005, and hope to reach the semifinal round for the first time since 2007. The Jaguars have one of the youngest teams in the league with one senior, Jessica Hanson, on the roaster. Hanson is fifth in the PBC in hitting percentage while freshman sensation Alex Rohlfing leads the PBC in total kills with 405 so far this year and was named a PBC Player of the Week.
Like Augusta State, Francis Marion will be meeting up with a local rival in the first round of the PBC Tournament as the sixth-seeded Patriots take on UNCP. Separated by only an hour, the two teams split their two regular-season meetings with identical 3-0 scores. Francis Marion’s Ashlee Crook has been named a PBC Player of the Week twice this season and is in the PBC top 10 in both kills and kills per set. Senior libero Hallie Legg was named PBC Specialist of the Week and has 11 matches with 20 digs or more this year.
Seventh-seeded Montevallo has reached the semifinal round in each of their first two PBC volleyball tournaments since joining the league with Flagler for the 2009 season. The Falcons struggled with injuries this season but still wield two of the best offensive weapons in the PBC with 2010 Freshman of the Year Manyi Ati and 2010 co-Setter of the Year Anna Garrison. Ati is second in the PBC with 3.11 kills per set and third with a .351 hitting percentage. Garrison is third in the league with 10.61 assists per set and 11th in digs. As a team, UM leads the Peach Belt in digs and is second in both kills and assists.
Lander will be the eighth seed for the PBC Tournament and have to face off against Armstrong for the second time in seven days when they meet in the quarterfinals on Friday. The Bearcats are second in the PBC in aces, thanks largely to the efforts of freshman setter Jessica Register, who is third in the league in aces and sixth in assists per set. Libero Madison Kubal is one of four players in the PBC with 500 or more digs this year while Magi Nottingham leads the team with 221 kills.
Tickets for the PBC Volleyball tournament are $5, $3 for students, seniors and children and free for students at PBC institutions who present a valid student ID. All matches will feature both live stats and a live video webcast through UStream, the official streaming partner of the Peach Belt Conference. Fans can follow all the action with the official tournament website, located at
2011 PBC Volleyball
Hosted by Augusta State
Friday, Nov. 11
#7 Montevallo vs. #2 Flagler, 1:00
#6 Francis Marion vs. #3 UNC Pembroke, 3:00
#8 Lander vs. #1 Armstrong Atlantic State, 5:00
#5 Augusta State vs. #4 USC Aiken, 7:00
Saturday, Nov. 12
7-2 Winner vs. 3-6 Winner, 4:00
8-1 Winner vs. 4-5 Winner, 6:00
Sunday, Nov. 13
Championship Match, 2:00