Mountaineers fall in semis of volleyball tourney 221

OXFORD, Miss. — Traveling for the first time in the 2017 National Volleyball Invitational Championship (NIVC), the WVU Mountaineers dropped a three-set match to Ole Miss in an semifinal match-up Dec. 9.

The Mountaineers (21-13) fell in set scores of 25-23, 25-22 and 25-17 to conclude their season.

WVU bettered a predicted sixth-place finish in the Big 12 with a 6-10 fifth-place mark in the league, upsetting then-No. 14 Kansas for the first time in program history to cap regular-season play. WVU won 21 games for the first time since a 26-11 campaign in 1991, the only time before 2017 that the Mountaineers made the postseason.

With 21 wins this year, third-year coach Reed Sunahara earned his highest win total as head coach of the Mountaineers.

“I told [the players] before the game they did a great job this year, and I’m proud of them,” Sunahara said. “The seniors did a great job. We made it to the postseason for the first time in 26 years, and we made a run. That’s all you can ask for.”

Sophomore outside hitter Payton Caffrey led the Mountaineers with 13 kills, hitting .300 on the day. Senior middle block Mia Swanegan was not far behind Caffrey, hitting a team-best .318 with 11 kills on 22 swings. Swanegan also notched five block assists and three solo blocks.

Senior libero Gianna Gotterba had a season-best 23 digs. Caffrey added nine digs to the team’s total of 46, while senior Emma Anderson assisted on 31 of the team’s 39 kills.

WVU finished the match hitting .157 with 39 kills and nine team blocks.

Led by Emily Stroup’s 19 kills, Ole Miss (21-14) hit .210 with 43 kills and seven team blocks.

WVU dropped to 2-1 all-time against Ole Miss.

The contest marked the final career match for five Mountaineers seniors: Gotterba, Anderson, Swanegan, Taylor Cross and Morgan Montgomery.

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