BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The Samford volleyball team swept Furman, 3-0 (25-18, 25-20, 25-13), Sunday evening in the semifinals of the Southern Conference Championship at the Pete Hanna Center on the campus of Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. With the win, the Bulldogs advance to the conference championship match for the first time since joining the league in 2008.
Samford jumped out to an early 8-2 lead in the opening set then held a 17-10 advantage before Furman went on a 4-0 run to cut the lead to four points. The Bulldogs answered with a four-point run of their own to take control of the set, en route to a 25-18 win.
The teams battled through a close beginning to the second set. Furman took a 9-7 advantage before Samford went on an 8-1 run to lead 15-10. The Paladins cut lead to two at 16-14 then came within one point of the Bulldogs at 17-16. The teams traded points back-and-forth, but the Bulldogs put together three-consecutive winning points to end the set, 25-20.
After the break, Samford controlled the third set, jumping out to a 20-9 lead. Furman seniors Alexis Shaffer and Kelly Kirby posted late kills for the Paladins, but the Bulldogs came away with a 25-13 set victory to sweep the match.
Paladin junior Natalie Braun posted a triple-double with 10 kills, 13 assists, and 14 digs, while Kirby notched a team-high 19 assists. Senior Carolyn Nicoletti matched Braun's 14 digs in the contest.
Elizabeth Neisler led the Bulldogs (28-4, 13-3 SoCon) with 16 kills and a .652 attack percentage, while Katie Murphy hit .562 with nine kills. Libero Alexis Bauer led the Samford defense with a match-high 21 digs, and setter Casey Garvey dished out 38 assists.
Furman concludes the 2011 season with a 21-9 overall mark and a 13-3 league record.