Albany State’s Sharme Ridley sets a ball near the net during Tuesday’s SIAC Tournament quarterfinal game against Claflin, which the Lady Rams in four sets. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY -- Already down 0-1 to Claflin University with the momentum against them Tuesday, the Albany State Lady Rams' volleyball team was in need of a spark.
The boost came from a familiar source.
With the score deadlocked at 23-23 in Game 2, the Lady Rams rallied behind their home crowd to win three straight, beating the top-seeded Lady Panthers, 3-1, during the quarterfinal round of the SIAC Tournament on Tuesday afternoon at the ASU HPER Gymnasium.
"When you have all that support you don't want to disappoint the fans," Desiree Hardy said. "(The crowd) plays a big difference because when the game is that close your adrenaline really gets going."
With the victory, the Lady Rams were one win away from competing for the conference championship, but those plans were derailed late Tuesday night in the semifinal round when ASU lost in five sets to Kentucky State, which advanced to today's championship match at 3 p.m., while ASU fell into the losers' bracket and will now have to beat the Claflin-Benedict winner at noon today to get another crack at KSU.
When coach Robert Skinner was asked whether he felt his team could pull off another upset of No. 1 Claflin and then beat Kentucky State twice, he said his team's focus was one thing and one thing only.
"We can, but we're not even thinking about Kentucky State right now," he said. "We have to beat Claflin first. That's all we're worried about."
Sabrina Garcia led the Lady Rams in kills for the second straight day with 15 in the win against Claflin, while Jennifer Johnson once again had the team-high in assists (41). Sharme Ridley came up big on offense and defense with 13 kills and 15 digs.
"I'm still a little inconsistent, but when I get going I put everything inside and say, 'I have to do this' and 'Lord, please help me out,' " Ridley said with a laugh.
Despite a 25-19 opening-set loss, Skinner said he didn't think his team came out flat.
"(Claflin) came out enthused and played off emotion," he said. "But I let my girls know that you cannot play off emotion the entire game. Eventually the true talent is going to show. If you play with your skills and stay in your sets, the other team's enthusiasm will eventually drop off."
Albany State won the final three sets, 25-23, 25-20 and 25-17, leaving the Lady Panthers bewildered and in the losers' bracket.
"We just didn't play and we loss our focus," Claflin head coach Vernell Capers said. "We failed to communicate on the floor and it cost us several points. We beat ourselves."
In the nightcap against Kentucky State, ASU fell behind early, 1-0, after losing Game 1, 25-19, but then rallied to win Game 2, 29-27. Kentucky State then took Game 3, 25-18, but again ASU responded and won Game 4, 25-21, to force a do-or-die Game 5.
In the final set, KSU upended the Lady Rams, 15-9.
Garcia led with 21 kills, followed by 11 from Ridley and 10 from Jillian Anderson.
Adrienne Morris and Ridley each notched 17 digs, while Johnson added 12.
If the Lady Rams can come back and win today, they'll capture their conference record-tying 10th SIAC title, which would match the mark previously set by Alabama A&M. ASU had a string of nine in a row snapped last year by -- you guessed it -- Kentucky State.
Andrew women hoops wins again
CUTHBERT -- The Andrew College women's basketball team beat Brewton-Parker for the second time in a week Tuesday, this time, 67-58, to start the season 4-1.
Shamonica Fowler led the Lady Tigers with 11 points, and Angel Penn scored 10. Jabreal Alford grabbed 16 rebounds, while Ashley Reece snagged 11. AC plays next at Southern Crescent in Griffin on Friday.