The GRU Augusta Jaguars volleyball season is stuck in limbo after an upset lost at home to the Lander Bearcats on Tuesday night in the quarterfinals of the Peach Belt Conference Tournament.
Jaguar supporters came out in packs as Christenberry Fieldhouse drew its largest crowd of the season. An exuberant audience, a matchup of two quality programs and a semifinal Peach Belt Conference playoff berth on the line were the ingredients of an intense playoff atmosphere.
The Jaguars (26-8, 13-6 PBC) were the third seed and the Bearcats (22-9, 10-9 PBC) were the sixth seed.
Coming into the matchup, the Jaguars had beat the Bearcats twice in the regular season. The Jaguars won each match in five sets. In the first game the Jaguars pulled off a comeback win, down 2-1, and in the second bout the Jaguars fended off a late rally to win.
The third meeting between the two programs resulted in another five-set affair (25-18, 25-21, 25-18, 25-23, 15-10), which was full off ties and led changes. Both teams struggled to establish a run and control the match as they battled to advance to the next round.
The Bearcat held the match led 2-1, when senior hitter Maggie Darling fired a kill to give the Jaguars a 19-18 advantage late in the fourth set. An attack error by freshman libero Kali Boatwright allowed the Bearcats to tie the set, 22-apiece.
However, Boatwright made up for the misfire by smashing a kill to give the Jaguars set point, and then the set win off a Bearcats attack error.
In the fifth frame the Bearcats took a 7-3 led, and the Jaguars played catchup through the rest of the set. The Jaguars managed to come within three points of tying the score at 12-9, but couldn’t complete the comeback. A couple of kills from Lander, and an attack error from senior Kristen Koch allowed Lander to stay in the fight for the PBC title.
The Bearcats outhit the Jaguars .147-to-.139, managed 17 blocks and dropped in seven aces. For the Jaguars, junior hitter Kailla Baptiste fired 15 kills and sophomore defensive specialist Catherine DeSilvester registered 34 digs.
Because of the early exit in the PBC tourney, the Jaguars no longer control their own destiny. The results of conferences tournaments in the PBC, Conference Carolinas and Southern Atlantic Conference will determine were the Jaguars place in the final NCAA Southeast Regional rankings.
The three conference champs receive an automatic bid to the Southeast Regional Tournament, and five at-large spots will remain for the highest remaining ranked teams in the regional poll. The Jaguars were ranked No. 4 in the latest edition of the poll.