Caleb Bailey, Sports Editor
The Armstrong Pirates volleyball team had a successful run over the Thanksgiving break as they closed out the regular season on a six-game winning streak and advanced to the championship game of the Peach Belt Conference Tournament, which helped them earn their ninth straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
During their run to the conference championship game, the Pirates pulled a huge upset over regular season champions and rival USC Aiken in the semifinals. They eventually fell to Flagler 3-2 in the title game.
In that game, the Pirates took an early lead by winning the first set 25-17. They dropped the next two 25-19 and 25-13 but forced a fifth set with an exciting 26-24 win in what could have been the deciding set for Flagler.
Flagler ended up walking away with the conference title by winning the final set 15-13.
The Pirates were led by sophomores Raegan Grooms, who had 13 kills and 18 digs, and Carley Eiken, who nailed down 39 assists.
The Pirates will now face off against the Lincoln Memorial Railsplitters in the first round of the NCAA Southeast Regionals on Friday, Dec. 2 as a No. 4 seed. A win in the game would mean a possible meeting with the Pacers in the second round of the tournament.
The Railsplitters finished their season 25-8 and fell in the championship game of the South Atlantic Conference tournament to the Wingate Bulldogs, who landed the No. 2 seed in the Southeast Regionals and also eliminated the Pirates from the tournament in 2014.
Senior Rachel Thompson will look to lead the Pirates to victory in Friday’s match-up as she leads the team with a .317 hitting percentage. Junior Iva Scepavonic leads the team with 512 digs and will also play a big part in her team’s efforts this weekend.