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20 November 2006

Gamecocks Block Their Way Past SEMO,
into NCAA Tournament

Jacksonville State defeated 17 of its 18 Ohio Valley Conference volleyball opponents this season with a hard-hitting offense and great passing. The Gamecocks used defense to win the match that — so far — has mattered most.

Top-seeded JSU registered 11 blocks Saturday to win its second consecutive OVC_Tournament_title with a 3-0 victory over sixth-seeded Southeast Missouri State at Pete Mathews Coliseum.

The victory earned Jacksonville State (24-4) a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

The selection show announcing matchups and locales for the tournament is scheduled to air at 1:30 p.m. next Sunday on "ESPN News."

“I think (defense) really starts in the back row,” said JSU coach Rick Nold, whose team topped SEMO 30-25, 31-29, 30-24. “Our defensive players were doing a great job, and that puts so much more pressure on a hitter to go try and put a ball away.

“Obviously our blockers were able to step in and put more pressure on them. I thought, team-wise, defense was the key to the game.”

Despite a defensive showing that held the Redhawks (16-18) to a combined .059 hitting percentage, JSU never led by more than seven points throughout the match, largely because of a shaky service attack that gave up several points.

“We missed quite a few serves,” Nold said. “A good team finds a way to win games when everything isn't going so well. You have to improvise a little bit.

“That's something that's been with this team all year. When somebody puts pressure on them, they stepped up and made a run.”

For Saturday's final, Nold wore the same blue shirt he wore for last year's five-game finale against Eastern Kentucky.

“Oh, it was very intentional,” Nold said. “I've always been very superstitious with little things. I bought a new blue shirt that I'd been wearing, but for the championship game, I had to go back to the old one.

“It worked last year; might as well try it again.”

See story at The Anniston Star's website: .

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