BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Citadel Bulldogs (14-11, 7-9), the No. 7 seed, won the 2021 Southern Conference Volleyball Championship, their first in program history, with a 3-0 sweep (25-23, 25-18, 25-22) of No. 4 seed Wofford (17-14, 9-7), earning an automatic bid to the 2021 NCAA Division I Volleyball Championship on Sunday afternoon inside Samford’s Pete Hanna Center.
The two teams split their regular-season matchups, with the Bulldogs winning 3-1 at home on Sept. 29 and Wofford winning by the same score on its home court on Oct. 27. The Citadel upset No. 2 UNCG, the co-regular season champions, 3-2 in the quarterfinals, and No. 3 Samford, 3-1, in the semifinals before taking down the fourth-seeded Terriers.
Wofford scored first on a kill from Kennedy Smith, who followed up with a second kill to put the Terriers in front 2-0. The Citadel responded with three straight points to take the early 3-2 lead before Wofford tied it up. From there, neither team led by more than a pair until a kill by Smith moved the margin to three, 9-6. The Bulldogs tied it at 10 on an ace from first-team all-conference performer Sharlissa De Jesus, the Most Outstanding Player, and took the lead on a kill from Maddy Cardenas. Wofford used a 3-0 run to retake the lead, 13-11, and The Citadel called its first timeout of the set.
Smith came out with a kill to push the lead to three, but Ali Ruffin, the Rayna Taylor Freshman of the Year and an all-tournament team selection, answered with a kill to stop the 4-0 run. It was a back-and-forth affair from there and after a service ace from Wofford’s Abbey Richman put the Terriers in front 21-20, The Citadel called its second timeout of the set. Trailing 23-22, back-to-back kills by Gina Delancey and De Jesus gave the Bulldogs set point and Wofford called timeout. De Jesus finished off the set with a kill out of the timeout, and The Citadel won the tight opening set, 25-23. Smith tallied nine kills in the set for the Terriers, hitting .667, while De Jesus hit .364 with five kills for the Bulldogs. The set featured 15 ties and seven lead changes.
Wofford scored first to open the second set on a kill by Emory Wyatt. Tied at 3, The Citadel took the lead on a kill from Ruffin and extended the lead to three, 15-12. The Citadel won three of the next four to stretch the lead to five, 18-13, and Wofford head coach Lynze Roos called a timeout, which worked, as The Citadel served the next ball into the net. Holding on to a four- point lead, though, the Bulldogs pushed the lead to five, 23-18, and Wofford used a timeout. A Wofford attack error and a kill from Ruffin capped off the set as The Citadel won the second set 25-18 and took a 2-0 lead in the match.
For the third straight set, Wofford got on the board first to begin the third set. Tied at 10, Wofford won the next two points on a kill from Kelly Hubbard and an ace from Chasidy Sharpe. The Citadel called timeout and a Wofford service error out of the break helped the Bulldogs to side out. Wofford held onto the lead, however, until The Citadel tied it at 16 on a block from De Jesus and Cardenas. Tied at 17 and 18, The Citadel took a 19-18 lead on a kill from De Jesus. Wofford tied it up on the next play, but The Citadel answered and Wofford called a timeout down 20-19. The Citadel won five of the next eight to earn the 25-22 set win and take the match 3-0, giving The Citadel its first championship in a women’s sport in school history.
The match featured 31 ties and 13 lead changes. The Citadel hit .324 to Wofford’s .210. De Jesus led all players with 18 kills, tallying 74 in the tournament, and hit .429. She added a team-high 12 digs to earn a double-double. Ruffin added 11 kills and Kellerman tallied 11 digs. Sarah MacLean, an all-tournament selection, led Wofford with 12 kills, hitting .417, while Smith followed closely with 11 kills and hit .429. Libero Kaitlyn Brown led Wofford with nine digs, while setter Emily Hodsdon, an all-tournament team pick, dished out 31 assists. The Citadel will learn its NCAA tournament opponent during the selection show on Sunday, Nov. 28. The show is set for 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU.