Key Three-Set Wins Lift UAB Past Mercer On Sand

Thais Soares teamed with Sam Serley for the match-clinching win Sunday against Mercer.

April 15, 2012

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- There were some nervous moments for UAB in the middle of Sunday's sand volleyball match with Mercer, but a pair of three-set wins within minutes of each other lifted the Blazers to a 3-2 victory.

It was the final home contest of the inaugural season for UAB, which defeated Mercer for the third time to improve to 5-3. The Bears dropped to 1-6 with the loss.

The Blazers' No. 2 tandem of Rachel Fairbanks and Kiriana Hirini and No. 3 pair of Sam Serley and Thais Soares both pulled out crucial come-from-behind wins to help UAB clinch the victory. Both pairs took the court with UAB and Mercer deadlocked at 1-1 in the team match.

Fairbanks and Hirini overcame a 21-18 first-set loss to win the second set, 21-15, and the third, 15-11, over Jamie Duffy and Cassie Ray to inch the Blazers ahead.

Minutes later, Serley and Soares polished off a comeback win of their own to lock up the UAB victory. The Blazer duo bounced back from a 29-27 loss in the opening set to win the next two by scores of 21-9 and 15-13 over Emily Rochefort and Caroline Carlton.

"Mercer is really improved," UAB head coach Hal Messersmith said. "They played hard and had much better ball control than we had seen from them before. It really came down to playing the big points well in those two three-set matches, and we did well to pull them out."

Mercer won the final point of the day as Jennifer Katona and Monica Sanchez prevailed in a pair of tight sets, 21-19, 21-19, over Heather Thomas and Kirsten Gallagher, but it could not change the final outcome.

The day opened with a split of the first two matches on the court. UAB won at the No. 4 spot with a 21-14, 21-15 victory by Kate Morrell and Ally Slaughter over Lizzie Knapper and Erin Brett.

Mercer won at the No. 5 position with a 21-18, 23-21 victory by Charlayna Braxton and Zoe Becton over Becca Howard and Michele Simmons.

Sunday's match came on the heels of a Saturday trip to Knoxville, Tenn., where the Blazers utilized one of their spring indoor volleyball dates to scrimmage against Tennessee.

"I'm proud of our players for getting this win," Messersemith said. "Even after playing indoors yesterday and making the drive home last night, we were able to do what we needed to do to win today's match."

UAB will hit the road next weekend to close out its regular season at Florida State. The Blazers and Seminoles, which opened the season against each other in early March, are scheduled to meet Saturday at 12 p.m. ET in Tallahassee, Fla.

Match Results
UAB 3, Mercer 2

No. 1 - Jennifer Katona/Monica Sanchez (Mercer) def. Heather Thomas/Kirsten Gallagher (UAB); 21-19, 21-19

No. 2 - Rachel Fairbanks/Kiriana Hirini (UAB) def. Jamie Duffy/Cassie Ray (Mercer); 18-21, 21-15, 15-11

No. 3 - Sam Serley/Thais Soares (UAB) def. Emily Rochefort/Caroline Carlton (Mercer); 27-29, 21-9, 15-13

No. 4 - Kate Morrell/Ally Slaughter (UAB) def. Lizzie Knapper/ Erin Brett (Mercer); 21-14, 21-15

No. 5 - Charlayna Braxton/Zoe Becton (Mercer) def. Becca Howard/Michele Simmons (UAB); 21-18, 23-21