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Cougars Compete in Hillsborough Community College Tournament

(10/25/09) Tampa, FL-The volleyball team always enjoys playing in competitive tournaments in the local area that bring in nationally ranked teams. This past weekend was one of their best showings ever when the squad travelled across the bay to compete in the Hillsborough Community College Tournament in Tampa. Clearwater was the only non scholarship team there, with seven other NJCAA I teams, two of which are currently ranked in the top 20 NJCAA I polls.

The first game of the tournament matched CCC up against Saint Petersburg College. The Cougars were led offensively in that match by Alyssa Hallice and Emma Kile, who both had over four kills per game. Freshman, Alyse Sugimoto, played libero in place of her sister Chrissie, who was injured, and led the defense with nearly five digs per game, and Ashley Lawson, and Danielle Heffernan also contributed over 3 digs per game. Clearwater won the match in four sets; 25-14; 25-14; 23-25; 25-21.

In the second match of the day, Clearwater went up against State College of Florida-Jacksonville, a strong program that usually makes it to the NJCAA national tournament each year. Currently Jacksonville is ranked 16th in the nation among NJCAA I colleges. The Cougars knew they would need to bring their best game to hang with the outstanding Stars and that is exactly what Clearwater did. In a fiercely competitive match that had some great offensive and defensive plays by both teams, the Cougars were able to capture the exciting victory by taking the first set, 25-21; dropping the next set 16-25 and then taking the next two sets 25-23 and 25-19. After the match Coach Denny could not praise her team enough. "We played a very good opponent today, and we won. They did not give us the match; we had to earn it." The team was led again with Alyssa Hallice and Emma Kile who both had four kills per game, but the nice addition to the offense was freshman Richelle Bucklin, who came up big with 4.25 kills per game and 1.3 blocks per game. Eisabeth Ennis had 10 assists per game, and Ashley Lawson led all defense with five digs per game.

The Cougars returned to the second day of the tournament with the final match in pool play against State College of Florida-Sarasota. This was the second meeting of the two teams in regular season, and the Cougars took the match in three straight sets; 25-19; 25-13; 25-15. The win placed the Cougars into the championship match against the host school, Hillsborough Community College. HCC (26-7) is a very talented team that is well coached, currently ranked 15th in the NJCAA I polls, and have been to their national tournament the past three seasons. Not to be intimidated by the much bigger, faster and stronger Hawk team, Clearwater came out big in the first game scoring the first four points led by freshman Richelle Bucklin with three quick kills. The Lady Cougars continued their offensive attack from Bucklin, Hallice and Kile, followed up with some outstanding defense by Ennis, Heffernan and Lawson to take the first two sets; 25-21 and 25-16. HCC fought back and won game three 25-14. During the fourth set, the two teams fought back and forth with no one team getting more than a two point lead. Finally, Clearwater got a small edge and was able finish out the match by winning the game, 25-21. The win gave the Cougars the Championship title. The Cougars defense was outstanding against the big outside attack of Hillsborough and recorded 22 blocks and 78 digs for the match. Richelle Bucklin led all hitters with 18 kills, and Ashley Lawson led the defense with 28 digs.

According to Coach Denny, "This tournament definitely had the feel of our NCCAA Nationals. There were good teams and close matches. We were pushed to our limits and our team responded very well. It was definitely a total team effort. This is the best two day showing we have had all season long, and it is coming at a good time."

The Cougars travel to Saint Petersburg College on Tuesday and then will compete in their NCCAA South Regional Tournament next weekend. The winner of that tournament will be the South representative to the NCCAA National Tournament, November 12-14.