Philander Smith tops Dillard to claim Gulf Coast Athletic Conference volleyball title

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NEW ORLEANS, La. – The Philander Smith College Panthers defeated the Dillard University Bleu Devils in four sets, 3-1 (25-22, 25-20, 22-25, 25-21), to win the 2022 Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) Volleyball Championship presented by Pantene My Black is Beautiful and earned the league’s automatic bid to the NAIA Tournament later this month.

No. 2 Philander Smith 3, No. 1 Dillard 1

The three-day tournament was held on the campus of Dillard University. The clash of the top seeds was exciting from the opening whistle in front of a raucous crowd at the Battlefield in Dent Hall.

Set 1 – The opening stanza began as a back and forth battle with neither team able to pull away by more than two points. The top-seeded Bleu Devils burned through both of its timeouts before either squad had recorded its 20th point of the frame. Down the stretch, PSC began to pull away thanks to attacks by All-GCAC Second Team selection Vladana Radovic and Zarea Winn, going up by as many as five points. Despite a late surge by DU fueled by All-GCAC First Team honoree Codi Fillmore, Philander Smith was able to hold on for the 25-22 win.

Set 2 – The second frame saw the tight back and forth continue early before the Panthers were able to grab a three point lead, 10-7. After a called timeout, the No. 2 seed was able to expand its lead to seven points before DU began clawing back. Defensive stops by Philander Smith’s Radovic and All-GCAC First Team honoree DeAundria Green helped lift the team down the stretch. Dillard’s Vanae Sapp and All-GCAC First Team Taylor Hurst helped close the gap to four points, 24-20, forcing PSC to burn a timeout with set point on the line. However, the pause only delayed the set being taken by the Panthers, 25-20.

Set 3 – Bleu Devils fans attempted to rally the home team early to start the third set but Philander Smith again matched them point-for-point. By the midpoint of the stanza, the teams had fallen into nine scoring stalemates. Dillard pulled ahead by two, 18-16, and the Panthers called for a timeout. Kills by Winn and Radovic tightened up the score and the scoring stalemates resumed in the waning points. PSC called timeout, trailing by one, 23-22, but it was not enough to stop the rolling Bleu Devils, behind six kills from Codi Fillmore, who took their first set of the match, 25-22.

Set 4 – The extra frame was just as hotly contested as the first three. Fans from both teams remained on their feet as the teams matched nearly point-for-point through the first 11 points scored. A kill by Basia Brown followed by a Radovic ace put the Panthers ahead, 13-11, and pushed Dillard to burn a timeout. Philander Smith surged again, this time behind blocks from GCAC Attacker, Newcomer, and Player of the Year Jordan Johnson and Radovic to give the No. 2 seed a four-point advantage, 19-15. The flurry saw the Bleu Devils burn their final timeout of the set. Dillard continued to work to close the gap down the stretch but PSC would not be denied. An attack error handed the Panthers their final point as they won the final frame, 25-21.

Radovic led the Panthers in kills with a total of 19, followed by Winn with 12 and Green with 10. Radovic also notched a double-double with 10 digs. Johnson tallied a pair of solo blocks. Winn led the team in digs with 18 while GCAC Freshman of the Year Essence Wren posted 47 assists.

Fillmore led Dillard with a double-double of 20 kills, a match high, and 11 digs. Hurst finished with 34 assists. Chasry Lum-King recorded a match-high 19 digs in the contest.

The 43rd annual NAIA volleyball national championship will be held beginning November 19th for the opening rounds at participating school sites.

2022 GCAC Volleyball All-Tournament Team
Tiana Dalton, Fisk University
Kailie Williams, Wiley College
Codi Fillmore, Dillard University
Vanae Sapp, Dillard University
Jordan Johnson, Philander Smith College
Lela Collier, Philander Smith College
Vladana Radovic, Philander Smith College (MVP)

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