BOCA RATON, Fla. - Capping off a perfect road trip, the third-ranked University of Tampa Spartans volleyball team swept the Lynn Fighting Knights to capture the program's 20th Sunshine State Conference title on Saturday afternoon in the de Hoernle Center. The win over the second-place Knights guarantees the Spartans sole possession of first place with two games still remaining on the schedule.
Tampa (24-3, 13-1 SSC) secured its sixth consecutive crown over Lynn (19-8, 10-4 SSC) by scores of 25-11, 25-19, 32-30 and extends its winning streak to 14 matches.
Knowing what was at stake, the Spartans opened the match strong by racing out to a 9-4 lead and forcing Lynn to take a timeout. Out of the break, UT put together a 10-3 run as the Fighting Knights committed five attack errors in that span to force another LU timeout.
From there, Tampa used a pair of service aces from Jessica Yingling and Kaleigh Cunningham capped off a 25-11 win with a kill. Middle hitter Danielle Selkridge was perfect in five attempts to help the Spartans to a .545 attack percentage in the opening set.
The second frame was a bit closer as the two teams played to a 6-6 tie to start the set. Vanderhall then put down a kill and followed it with a block to give the visitors a lead they would not give up. UT then stretched its advantage to as much as eight and staved off a late rally by LU to win 25-19. Vanderhall continued to supply the offense for Tampa, connecting for six kills in eight swings while Cunningham added five more.
The final set of the match proved to be the most competitive of the season for the Spartans as they edged out a 32-30 win to secure the victory. The frame featured 19 tie scores and nine lead changes. No team led by more than three points at any point in the game as Lynn battled back from a 23-20 deficit to force extras. The Fighting Knights fought off six match-points until Selkridge put Tampa over the top with a kill.
Vanderhall and Cunningham tallied 13 kills each as Selkridge followed with 12 to help UT to 53 kills in the match compared to 44 by Lynn. Senior Sam Macks chipped in with seven more kills at a .462 clip.
Senior setter Meghan Sherman tallied 42 assists in the contest, a season high for a three-set match, a night after becoming just the fifth player in UT history to reach 3,000 career assists. Sherman also guided the Spartans to a .336 attack rate for the match and dumped in two kills. She recorded her 12th double-double of the year by adding 14 digs and assisted in three blocks.
Libero Julie Howlett anchored the back row for UT, notching a match-high 17 digs and limiting the Fighting Knights to a .203 mark.
Up front, Tampa put up nine total team blocks, led by Selkridge with five block assists. Vanderhall also assisted in three stops at the net while Macks and Cunningham each had a solo block.
On Senior Night for Lynn, Chelsey Semprini and Kala Abdell combined for 25 kills to lead the Fighting Knights offense. Devon Woolard dished out 36 assists in her final home match and Lacy Redwine scooped up 15 balls.
The Spartans return home to face Nova Southeastern on Friday night at 7 p.m. before taking on Barry for the final game of the regular season on Saturday afternoon. Saturday's match will be Senior Night as Tampa will honor its four seniors and junior Kady Bruce, who will be graduating a year early.
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