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VSU ends Lady Rams’ 12-game winning streak

Albany State outside hitter Ashley Johnson goes for a kill against a pair of Valdosta State blockers.

Albany State outside hitter Ashley Johnson goes for a kill against a pair of Valdosta State blockers.

Cavs in third place after opening round

VALDOSTA — After finishing fifth for the Cavs in an inter-squad tournament last week, Darton State College freshman Parks Brown turned it on Monday and led the Cavs into the final group at the Thomas University Invitational at Kinderlou Forest in Valdosta.

Brown shot an even-par 72 to lead the Cavs, who shot a 298 and are in third place after the opening round of the 36-hole tournament.

“He played steady all day,” Darton golf coach Bill Jones III said about Brown, a freshman from Gainseville. “He had a couple of bogies but birdied three of his last five holes.”

TaeHyung Kim, Taylor Martin and Nick Green shot 74, 75 and 77, respectively, to leave the Cavs three strokes behind second-place Southern Wesleyan (S.C.).

USC Beaufort shot a 285 and leads by 10 strokes heading into today’s final round.

“We didn’t play as well as I would have liked,” Jones said. “But we’re in the mix. We’re in the hunt. I definitely saw some improvements. We were more consistent from top to bottom.”

The Cavs are scheduled to tee off 9:30 today.

DARTON XC SWEEPS HOME INVITE: Darton State College swept its 2012 Skiles Farm Invitational in Dawson on Saturday.

The Cavs had a near-perfect 17 total points over South Georgia College’s 43 in a dual meet for the collegiate men’s 8K.

The Lady Cavs scored 29 points to beat Georgia Southwestern State University (2nd, 52 points), Chipola Community College (3rd, 88 points), and South Georgia College (4th, 90 points) in the women’s 5K race.

Darton’s Cody Mallchok led the Cavs, covering the dusty, hilly course in 27:52. Darton freshman Jared Richmond has been closing the gap on Mallchok since August and finished second overall Saturday, running 28:14.

Freshmen Elena Oslund and Alexis Skiles led the Lady Cavs. Oslund’s 21:29 was strong enough to finish third overall, while Skiles was a second behind her to finish fourth.

ALBANY — Albany State’s Lady Rams, winners of 12 in a row, had already beaten non-conference rival Valdosta State in the first set Monday and were on their way to rolling to a win in set No. 2.

Then the wheels fell off and the 12-match winning streak crashed into a side rail. Valdosta State rallied from a 20-18 deficit in set No. 2 and ran off seven straight points to win 25-20 and even the match at 1-1. The Lady Blazers went on to win the next two sets and the match, 3-1, ending the Lady Rams’ run.

“We don’t have 12 more games, but we’ll try to win as many from this point on,” ASU head coach Robert Skinner said after the loss. “(The problem) was not realizing the game goes to 25 and not to 20. You’ve got to stay strong through all those points. You can’t start playing weak at 20 and expect to win the game.”

ASU (14-8) won the opener 25-22 before Valdosta State’s rally in the second set, which was set up by two kills from Kelsey Kovar and two blocks from Destiny Berry.

Albany State trailed the entire third set before cutting the VSU lead to 18-17 on a Lady Blazers errors, but VSU once again reeled off five straight points sparked by two key kills and a block from Katie Onushko.

VSU won the third set, 25-19, to take a 2-1 lead in the match and then ran away in the fourth and final set, 25-10.

“It’s so frustrating when we didn’t beat them because we have a great team,” ASU senior setter Jennifer Johnson said. “When you win the first game like that then lose the last three, it really hurts.”

Johnson and the Lady Rams’ small senior class have never beaten Valdosta State, adding to the pain of seeing their win streak go up in smoke.

ASU will get another shot at VSU (11-5) on Oct. 30 in Valdosta before the conference tournament begins in November.

“We’re disappointed in ourselves, but we know that we’re going to see Valdosta again,” Johnson said. “We’ll be ready for them next time.”

ASU sophomore outside hitter Sharme Ridley and junior middle hitter Jillian Anderson had multiple kills in the first two sets, leading to the opening set win and the early lead in the second set. Those shots faded down the stretch, though, and several unforced errors doomed the Lady Rams, who have played five matches in the past week after dominating the conference crossover tournament in Kentucky and going 4-0 in conference play.

“We’ve been on the road a lot,” said Skinner, who has never beaten VSU head coach Sia Poyer in seven seasons. “It really just wore us down.”

Anderson led the Lady Rams with 17 kills, while Ridley added 12 and 11 digs. Adrienne Morris had a team-high 19 digs.

Nikki McDaniel led VSU with 15 kills, and Chelsea Luttfring had 22 digs.

The goal now for the Lady Rams is to start a new streak, beginning at home Thursday against Division I Alabama A&M.

“We’re focused on beating A&M,” said Johnson, who had 42 assists in Monday’s loss. “If we can beat them, I think that will get us back to where we were.”

The Lady Rams are in the middle of a five-game homestand, which began with a 3-0 victory Sunday against Benedict College. After Thursday’s game against Alabama A&M, ASU will host Paine College on Saturday and Clark Atlanta on Oct. 9.