BIRMINGHAM, ALA. -- Whoa. Just whoa.
The 9th-seeded volleyball team in the Southern Conference knocked off the top seed in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.
The team that knocked off Mercer 3-1 (25-20, 25-27, 25-21, 25-16) was the Furman Paladins.
Freshman Bella Tolone hit .405 with 20 kills to lead the Paladins to victory at Pete Hanna Center.
The Paladins (9-19, 2-14 SoCon), who avenged two regular-season losses to the Bears, advance to face No. 4 Wofford in the semifinals on Saturday at 6 p.m. EST. Mercer finishes its season at 16-12 overall and 12-4 versus league opponents.
“Obviously, I am super excited for our entire team,” said Furman head coach Michelle Young. “We have talked about how the tournament is a fresh start, and the girls understood that and took advantage of the opportunity. We had a more balanced attack, we executed better, and we battled. And we’re not done yet.”
Tolone posted a double-double, adding 12 digs in the victory. Junior Sarah Turner led the team with 23 assists, while junior Andrea Aceveda notched a team-high 17 digs. Senior Neci Harris logged 12 kills, sophomore Ella Abraham added 19 assists and sophomore Maya Mrus tallied 10 digs. Harris and sophomore Sydney Tanner each recorded 4 blocks for the Paladins.
Rayanne de Oliveira hit .478 with 13 kills for Mercer, while Jaida Howell paced the Bears with 17 kills. Agnieska Paskevic posted 47 assists, and Megan Smith had 15 digs in the loss.
It was all Furman in the clinching set four, as the Paladins jumped out to a quick 9-4 lead. Mercer went on a 7-2 run to trim the margin to just one point, 12-11, but kills from Harris and Tolone put the Paladins ahead, 15-11. The Bears again cut the lead to one at 15-14, but the Paladins went on an 8-0 run to dominate the set, with Tolone tallying 4 kills in the final run. Abraham recorded a kill and a service ace, and sophomore Kelsey Watkins logged a kill in the final points of Furman’s 25-16 victory.