HOUSTON, Texas - The UAB volleyball team capped-off its memorable run at the 2006 Conference USA Championship by winning quite possibly the most exciting match of the season, overcoming a 2-0 deficit to beat Memphis, 3-2 (26-30, 22-30, 30-23, 30-27, 15-10), on Sunday. Sophomore outside hitter Ivana Bozic was named the tournament MVP following the match, while Domingos earned all-tournament team recognition.
UAB is now 27-9 on the year and has won 13-straight matches.
Bozic led the Blazers with 23 kills and seven digs, while Domingos posted 12 kills and five blocks. Junior libero Brianna Galvin had 23 digs to set the Conference USA Tournament all-time record for digs with 83. Freshmen Aley Tallman and Haylee Adkins both came up large for the Blazers as Tallman had 10 kills on .400 hitting, while Adkins added 12 digs.
Junior middle blocker Shaniquwa Cooper finished with six blocks to make her the record holder for total blocks (29) and block assists (27). Sophomore middle blocker Casey Dent had nine kills on .400 hitting to go with five digs.
Sophomore setter Nevena Stefanov moved up to third all-time at UAB in career assists with her 52 helpers in the match to go along with five kills and nine digs.
The win was the first-ever Conference USA championship for the Blazers and made Kerry Messersmith the first coach to win a conference championship in her first-year at the helm at UAB since Judy Sackfield led the Blazers to the Great Midwest title in her first season back in 1992.
"We are just thrilled," Messersmith said following the match. "To think about where we came from back in the spring and even in the preseason being picked 10th - this is just so great. We stuck together as a team tonight after being down 2-0 and we fought back together, because that's what got us here, being a family and sticking together."
UAB started fast yet again with Cooper's record setting block assist giving the Blazers a 4-2 lead, which was then extended to 10-6 on an Aleksandra Vujovic kill. Another Vujovic put away made it 13-8 and then a Cooper kill made it 15-12 to lead in to the media timeout.
Entering the later half of the game, a Bozic kill made it 20-17 in favor of UAB before a string of Memphis points made it 21-20, UAB. Cooper and Domingos then teamed up for another block to make it 22-20 before a hitting error on the Blazers a few points later gave the Tigers their first lead of the match, 24-23.
Memphis continued to push forward, taking a 27-24 lead on a Liford kill and then won the very next point on a Colette Ramirez kill to bring the Tigers to within two points of winning the opening game.
Coming out of a timeout, UAB got two quick points with a Vujovic kill and then an attack error on Memphis to cut the Tigers' lead to 28-26, forcing a Memphis timeout. Out of the timeout, another Ramirez kill brought up game points for the Tigers, and they capitalized, with another Ramirez kill giving the Tigers a 30-26 victory.
Domingos led the Blazers in game one with five kills on .556 hitting, while Bozic and Vujovic each had four kills. Galvin led the team on the defensive end with six digs, while Cooper and Domingos each had three block assists.
The Blazers came out and found themselves down 6-2 early in game two following a Ramirez kill, and then a Vujovic attack error a few points later gave the Tigers a 9-4 lead to force a UAB timeout. A Melissa Nance kill extended the Tigers' lead to 14-6 and then another Nance kill made it 17-7.
Memphis continued to move towards taking a 2-0 lead in the match when a Burton kill made it 22-12 and then a Liford kill brought the count to 26-17. The Blazers came back to win four-straight points capped-off by a Domingos kill to cut the deficit to 28-22.
Following a timeout, a Burton kill brought up game points for Memphis at 29-22 and then a Kori Smith kill ended the game, 30-22, giving the Tigers a 2-0 lead into the intermission.
Bozic led the Blazers in game two with five kills, while Stefanov had 11 assists and Galvin had five digs.
In game three, Memphis took a slight edge early on when a ball handling error on the Blazers gave the Tigers a 10-8 lead before a pair of Aley Tallman kills tied things up at 11-all. A few points later, a Bozic kill gave the Blazers a 15-14 lead entering the media timeout and then got the first point out of the break with an ace by Stefanov.
Looking to open up a lead, the Blazers got a kill from Tallman to make it 19-16 and then a Bozic ace made it 20-16, forcing a Memphis timeout. The Blazers then took a 22-17 lead after a Stefanov kill and then an ace by Domingos made it 24-18.
Bozic put away a kill to bring the count to 27-21 and then a Stefanov kill and another Bozic kill brought up game points at 29-22. Memphis got one back, but UAB was able to close out the game, 30-23, on a block by Bozic and Cooper.
Tallman and Dent led the Blazers in game three with four kills and Galvin led the defensive effort with five digs.
Trailing 2-1, UAB found itself down early in game four as a Cote kill gave the Tigers a 5-2 lead and then a couple points later a Burton kill made it 7-2. Another Burton kill extended the Memphis lead to 10-4 before a pair of Bozic kills closed the gap to 11-6.
Entering the middle stage of the game, Bozic put away back-to-back kills to make it 15-12 in favor of Memphis and she did not stop there, still on fire, she put away another kill to make it 16-15 to cut the Tiger lead to one.
Memphis would respond to the UAB surge, as a Ramirez kill made it 21-16, which forced UAB to use a timeout. Refusing to go away, UAB struck back when a Galvin ace made it 22-19.
Answering the Blazers' call, the Tigers went up 24-19 on an attack error by UAB. The Blazers then came back and cut the deficit to two, 25-23, after an attack error on Burton. After a Memphis timeout, Bozic put away another kill to make it 25-24 and then an attack error on Memphis made it 26-26.
UAB took the lead, 27-26, on a Dent ace before Memphis got one back, but then made an error on the next point to give UAB a 28-27 advantage and then the Blazers pulled out one of the most thrilling points of the game to go up 29-27. With game points, UAB evened the match by winning the fourth game, 30-27, to force the third fifth-game between the two teams this season.
Bozic had a remarkable nine kills in the game, while hitting .600. Stefanov finished the game with 14 assists.
UAB opened game five with Bozic serving and it worked out to UAB's advantage as the Blazers won the opening point when Tallman put a kill away and then Bozic served an ace to make it 2-0. Still leading, a Bozic kill made it 4-2 and then a few points later a Dent kill made it 6-4.
Bozic made a miraculous angle kill to put the Blazers up 8-6 as the teams then switched sides, which led to two UAB points to make it 10-6 after a block by Cooper and Domingos. A couple points later, a Nance error gave UAB a 12-6 lead and then a Stefanov ace made it 13-6. Leading 14-10, Domingos put away a kill off a Memphis blocker to finish off the game, 15-10, and give the Blazers the 3-2 victory.
The Blazers have earned an automatic berth to compete in the NCAA Division I Tournament.