They came one win short. After a dream season a year ago, everyone but head coach Noelle Rooke and her players was writing off this season as a rebuilding year, especially when Mercer 6-17 in late October. But funnier things have happened.
Rooke’s team hit a hot stretch, winning four straight matches including a 3-1 defeat of the second best team in the A-Sun, Florida Gulf Coast, to end the home slate in 2009. Heading down to Florida with momentum in their favor, Mercer coasted by North Florida 3-1 before coming up just short to Jacksonville 3-1 in a hard fought match.
The surging Bears disposed of the Lady Ospreys quickly in the Friday night matchup after a first set letdown (14-25, 25-14, 25-14, 26-24). Led by senior setter Chelsea Gebben’s 14 assists and 11 digs, the Bears posted outstanding offensive numbers in the middle two sets to sneak past the talented North Florida squad. Rachel Urbelis would lead Mercer statistically for the night, totaling 13 kills. Libby Hansch and Krista Hurley would chips in 9 and 8 kills respectively in a match that resembled more of a chess stalemate than a offensive barn-burner.
Despite the low hitting percentages for both sides, Kaley Read and teammate Paige Pridgeon provided all of the UNF offense, combining for 31 of the team’s 55 kills for the night. Errors would prove costly though for the Ospreys in the contest (32 kill errors, 8 service errors).
“A win is a win no matter how you get it,” said Rooke following the game. “I’m thankful to keep up the winning ways.”
Unfortunately, Saturday’s contest against Jacksonville would cause the Bears to fall one game short of the Atlantic Sun postseason tournament in 2009. Although the year ended with a ‘L’ in the game column, the season ended on quite a high note as the team put together five wins in the final six contests.
Mercer won the opening set 25-21, but fell short in the final three 23-25, 23-25, 19-25 to lose the match to the Dolphins. A trio of outside hitters from JU including Brittany Lehman (17 kills), Brooke Singleton (14 kills, 12 digs), and Nicki Kent (12 kills) would pace the Dolphins at the net as Mercer responded with four players of their own in double-figures. The Bears saw a truly team effort on the floor with everyone contributing including Chelsea Gebben’s 32 assists, 1 kill, and 8 digs in her final collegiate match.
It was a bittersweet ending to a hard season for the team. “I was very pleased with the girls’ effort tonight,” Rooke said via mercerBears.com. Later Rooke would add, “They came out fighting and never gave up throughout the match…never. I am very proud of the girls. They finished strong, playing their best volleyball of the year when we expected them to. The morale in the locker room was great and I think that is a testament to the group of women we have on this team.”
With the 2009 campaign wrapped up, the Bears return all starters and bench players but the lone senior on the team, Chelsea Gebben. Gebben wraps up her career as a setter at Mercer still holding an NCAA record for the most consecutive services in a set (22 against Savannah State).
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