FSU's Ifeyinwa Nwokolo

Nov. 5, 2011

HAMPTON, Va. - Like Karina Monroe's serve, it wasn't how the Chowan Hawks started, it was how they finished.

Facing the second match point, the Chowan junior's serve fluttered off her hand, clipping the top of the net.

But the ball fell forward - and despite the sprawling Fayetteville State players desperate to keep their season alive, it continued to fall, all the way to the floor.

And with it, two-time defending CIAA champion Chowan returned to the CIAA championship - and against a familiar foe - after it rallied past Fayetteville State 3-1 in the CIAA Volleyball Tournament on Saturday at the Boo Williams Sportsplex in Hampton, Va. Chowan won by the scores 25-21, 25-14, 14-25 and 28-26.

The Hawks will face St. Augustine's in Sunday's 1 p.m. final, setting up a rematch of last season's championship match. The Lady Falcons stunned Winston-Salem State in straight sets in Saturday's earlier semifinal to earn a second straight trip to the title game.

The Hawks (26-7), the CIAA's Northern Division champions after an unblemished regular season league record, were brilliant at times against the Lady Broncos (20-14) - and they needed to be.

Trailing 19-10 in the opening set only moments after St. Augustine's had dusted Winston-Salem State with shocking dominance, Chowan rallied with 12 straight points to close out the set to take an early - and for a while at least, an unlikely - 1-0 edge in the match.

The Hawks cruised, though in the second set, firing on all cylinders behind CIAA Player of the Year Tori Lewis and Karina Monroe, an All-CIAA First-Teamer. Chowan blistered a scrambling Fayetteville State defense with an 11-4 run to take control of the set - and it appeared, the match.

But the Lady Broncos came storming back, getting a complete team effort in perhaps their best set of the season to temporarily keep their season alive. All of its key players - Joi Emanuel, Octavia Wynn, Ifeyinwa Nwokolo, JaMisha Jordan, Decausha McLean and LaToya Harvin - contributed significantly in blasting Chowan 25-14, using a 14-6 spurt to take control of the set.



That solid play continued for the Lady Broncos in the fourth set, and it appeared that the semifinal was headed for a decisive fifth set.

But Chowan came back. Again.

Trailing 16-9, the Hawks responded with an 8-2 run to trim the deficit to a single point. The teams traded points from there until Fayetteville State reached set point at 25-24. But Monica Ruffin came through with a kill to tie the set at 25, setting up Monroe's game-winner.

Monroe and Ruffin shared the match-high with 15 kills apiece while Lewis added 14. Callie Armistead led all players with 42 assists while Lewis had a staggering 27 digs. Chowan's defense was impressive against a relentless Fayetteville State attack, finishing with 94 digs. Five players, including Tara Thomalla, who had 20 digs, finished with 13 or more digs.

Nwokolo led the Lady Broncos with 16 kills to go with 19 digs while Emanuel had 11kills. McLean had 24 digs to lead Fayetteville State, which got 35 assists from Jordan. Emanuel and Jordan had four service aces apiece.

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