UNCA Volleyball qualify for conference tournament

Roman Uglehus
Sports Writer
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UNC Asheville’s women’s volleyball team qualify for the Big South conference tournament for the fifth straight year. The team travels to Rock Hill, South Carolina, to take on Presbyterian College in the first round this Friday.
The team finished their regular season with an overall record of 13-12 and a conference record of 7-7, placing them fifth in the Big South conference. 

Cecilia Stack, No. 4, celebrates a point won with her teammates during a conference game against Charleston Southern.

Making the conference tournament was a close call for the team, as they qualified for postseason last weekend in their final match of conference play. To qualify, the team needed at least one win in their last two home matches against Campbell and Hampton. In their first match of the weekend, the Bulldogs narrowly lost against Campbell three sets to two. Head Coach Frederico Santos spoke on the teams performance after the game.
“I think it was a game of momentum, and both teams let the momentum swing a lot. I think that’s why you saw some sets look lopsided. The first set, they were ahead, and all of a sudden, we’re back in and we win it from a difficult position. The momentum just kept swaying from one side to the other. For our team, where we could have been better is in our decision making, because we had a lot of opportunities within the fifth set and within other sets to be decisive,” Santos said. “Unfortunately, in those opportunities, we weren’t quite decisive enough to win the point, and sometimes, that’s just what the other side needs at that time to just recover and move on.” 
A day later, the team came back strong and got their needed win to set them into the conference tournament.
In their last regular season game, the Bulldogs thwarted Hampton University, trouncing the Pirates three sets to zero, marking Asheville’s 10th and final sweep of the season. The win against Hampton came on a special occasion, senior day. Six seniors were honored before the match. Speaking after the match, Santos said he enjoyed the effort put in by the seniors.
“I think it was awesome that the seniors could all contribute and contributed in a decisive win. From beginning to end, even in the second set when we fell back, the seniors were resolute in finishing their regular season on a high. I’m proud of them. I’m proud of every year and every minute they put on the court. It’s a testament to them for them to finish the regular season this way. I know that they really want to do a lot at the conference tournament and that’s where we set our sights. Congratulations to them, and thank you so much to the crowd that came to support and honor these talented seniors,” Santos said.
Many senior players fought hard in their last season at Asheville. One significant performer includes Julia Borges. Borges spoke on her feelings before playing her last regular season home match for the Bulldogs.
“I’m sad and happy. It’s a cycle that I’m going to be closing, so I’m sad for that, but I’m happy to go for the next cycle of my life. One of my goals is to play professionally so hopefully I can reach that, that’s going to be my biggest dream so I’m happy I’m getting closer to that point in my life,” Borges said.
Borges transferred to UNCA from Broward College in 2018 and enjoyed two spectacular seasons for the Bulldogs. In her first year, Borges totalled 234 kills and 129 digs, earning her a selection to the second team All-Big South. Speaking at the beginning of the season, Borges said she hoped to do better than last year and wanted to amass a first team selection.
“It was definitely a good feeling to be awarded but second-team is not the biggest you can get, so hopefully first team this year. That’s definitely motivated me because I want to be better this season for sure,” said the Brazil native.
Borges’ goal came true. The 2019 Big South conference volleyball awards were announced on Wednesday and Borges achieved a spot on the seven player first team all conference squad. In the Big South conference, Borges finished third in kills and fourth in total points won. For Asheville, Borges lead the team in kills and total blocks, with 260 and 64 respectively. 
Borges was not the only player from UNCA to be awarded all conference honors. Senior outside hitter Ansley Rooks and junior middle blocker Cecilia Stack both won Big South honors on Wednesday as well. 
Rooks earned an all conference honorable mention and Stack earned a place on the Big South all academic team.
Rooks played well in her last season as she lead the team in service aces and finished second in the team in both kills, 228, and digs, 257. 
Rooks finished the regular season on a high as she secured a Big South player of the week honor after her performances against Campbell and Hampton. In UNCA’s three game sweep against Hampton, Rooks recorded career highs in kills and digs, with 18 and 19 respectively. Rooks also reached double figures against Campbell with 10 kills and 13 digs.
Stack also enjoyed a successful season as she recorded 60 total blocks, the team’s second highest. Also, Stack finished with 129 kills, fourth most on the team. The Illinois native gave an assessment on her season.
“It’s definitely been a grueling year for me as a player. I think I’m finally connecting really well with Kailey and I’ve been getting lots of opportunities in the middle. With Julia Loveday getting hurt, it’s my responsibility to step up so I feel like we’ve done a great job as a team, really getting our passes up to be able to set the middle,” said Stack.
The Bulldogs play in the first round of the conference tournament on Friday at 4:30 p.m. at the Winthrop Coliseum in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Asheville will look to defeat Presbyterian College, who the team beat in a thrilling three to two set match earlier this month.