Volleyball team surges into NCAA Regional tournament

By Matthew Osterhouse | gargoyle@flagler.edu

Photo caption: Flagler College volleyball head coach Taylor Mott wins the Peach Belt Conference “Coach of the Year” award. Mott will lead the Saints in a match against No. 7 Lees-McRae College Bobcats on Friday in Wingate, N.C. at the NCAA Division II tournament.

The Flagler College volleyball team ranks No. 2 in the region heading into the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional tournament.

The Saints finished the regular season at the top of the Peach Belt Conference and won the PBC tournament. The team is riding a 25-match winning streak into the Regional competition.

Head Coach Taylor Mott says the team is focused on winning the region and getting to the national NCAA Division II Volleyball Tournament.

“Honestly, I don’t think anyone in our region can beat us. I think the only people that can beat us are ourselves,” Mott said. “I want to win the region and go to nationals, because we have never done that.”

The season was not always as promising. The Saints lost seven of their first 12 matches.

“I thought we would have started off better, but I guess it is better to peak at the end than at the beginning,” said Mott. “We played really tough competition to start with; I think with us it was more of just getting our confidence back.”

Clearly, Flagler got its groove back.

Senior and captain Justine Burkhardt credits team unity as a main ingredient to the team’s recent success. “We all play for each other and we are all here for the same reason. We all have the same level of commitment,” said Burkhardt.

This year’s Saints tied the Flagler College record for number of wins in a season and broke the school’s win-streak record. The team currently holds the second-longest active winning streak in NCAA Division II as it moves into regional play.

Mott earned PBC Coach of the Year honors, while Justine Burkhardt, Katie Beale and Meg Weathersby were selected to the all-conference first team.

Mott and her players show humility, though, and know they will have to play well to advance. They agree they have a great opportunity.

“I think we can definitely win [regionals],” Katie Beale, a senior and captain, said. “We have all the potential to win nationals. It’s just how we play and if we are on or not.

The Saints face the No. 7 Lees-McRae College Bobcats in the first round on Friday at 2:30 p.m. In a previous meeting this season, Flagler won 3-1.

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