TAMPA, Fla. – The dream that was the 2009 volleyball season came to an abrupt end on Saturday night as the Lions dropped a 3-0 decision (25-23, 25-20, 25-19) to the host University of Tampa in the South Region Championship at a packed Bob Martinez Sports Center.
It was another back-and forth battle as the host Spartans set the pace with a win in a tight first set. After the Lions took a 9-6 lead to get the pro-SLU crowd rocking, Tampa battled back to tie the score at 15. UT then went on an 8-3 run to take a 23-18 advantage and put the Lions on their heels. Saint Leo regrouped to take five of the next six points before UT managed to sneak in a kill to close the set.
The first set proved to be the closest the Lions would come as Tampa never trailed in the final two games and took a commanding 8-2 lead in the third. The Lions refused to give in, going on a 5-1 run with UT leading 23-15. But the Spartan offense, led solely by Melissa Vanderhall, proved to be a riddle that the Lions couldn’t answer as she dropped the last of her 18 kills down to give the hosts their Regional Championship and end the Lions’ season.
The only Lion in double-figures after the kill-fest the night before, was junior Bruna Rocha, who finished with 12 kills. Juniors Emily Calderon-Reyes and Kaitlin McKenna almost hit the double-digit mark with nine each.
Senior Michelle Nogueras, setting in what proved to be the final game of her Saint Leo career, posted 35 assists while senior libero Chelsea Armer notched three service aces.
The Lions closed out their spectacular season at 30-4 and share the conference title with the Spartans, the first SSC Championship in Saint Leo Volleyball history.