DAYTON, Ohio - The University of Dayton Flyers entered Sunday's title match in search of their fifth Atlantic 10 Championship in the last seven years. With the play from Dayton's outside hitter and the A-10's Most Outstanding Player Amanda Cowdrey, the Flyers struck tournament gold defeating the No. 20 Saint Louis Billikens 3-2 at the Frericks Center in front of a nationally televised broadcast on CBS College Sports.
The Flyers clawed back from an 0-2 deficit for the third time this season to capture head coach Kelly Sheffield's first A-10 title, and end a finals drought to the Billikens who had won the last two meetings in the A-10 finals. With Sunday's win, the Flyers also earned an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament, and will be making their sixth trip to the Big Dance in seven years.
Cowdrey was honored as most outstanding in the tournament after a 15 kill, 25 dig performance against SLU. It is the first such honor for Cowdrey as she transferred to the University of Dayton this fall.
All-Rookie team member Rachel Krabacher had 16 kills and 16 digs, tying All-American middle blocker and A-10 Co-Player of the Year Lindsay Fletemier for the team lead in kills. Fletemier also had eight blocks (eight assist), falling short of the tournament record of 11.
Dayton got off to a slow start against the Billikens. In fact, neither team had lost a match this season after winning the first set. The Flyers dropped the first set 22-25, but were stymied by the SLU offense in the second losing 17-25.
"We told the team at the break that we need to settle down and make better decisions," Sheffield said. "I think what you saw from then on out was a team executing its game plan. Once we pushed we took the momentum and then had control of the match."
From the intermission on, it was an entirely different for the Flyers. Dayton moved the ball to Fletemier who rattled off seven kills in the third set as UD began their ascent up the mountain.
"We were prepared for this game to go either way," Fletemier said. "When we went down into the locker room, we were saying `Ok, Let's go'. We knew we could play with them, there was no question since we did it on our home court before."
As Dayton earned the third set from the Billikens, the tables began to turn on SLU who won last year's tournament at home against the Flyers.
Cowdrey ignited, adding four kills for a .364 hitting percentage in the fourth. Fletemier continued her dominance on both sides of the ball putting away three block assists and five kills on seven attempts.
"We were expecting a long hard match and that is what it was today," Cowdrey said. "Once we got our heads together and focused on our side of the court everything took care of itself. Everyone wanted this bad enough that we had to make it happen in order to achieve our goal of going to the NCAA Tournament."
Dayton pounced on the opportunity in the fifth set, opening up the final frame with four straight points. The Billikens came as close as pulling the match within two points, however, UD seized the opportunity closing out the match with three straight points.
Dayton will host the Ohio Bobcats in a non-conference match the day after Thanksgiving at the Frericks Center. The Flyers will then await their opponent in the Opening Round of the 2009 NCAA Volleyball Championships. The selection will occur on Sunday, Nov. 29 on ESPN News.
Notes: All-American middle blocker and A-10 Co-Player of the Year Lindsay Fletemier was named to the All-Tournament team. She was joined by the tournament's Most Outstanding Player Amanda Cowdrey. Dayton leads all current Atlantic 10 member schools with five tournament titles. Former A-10 school Penn State has seven championships. Dayton has come back twice from 2-0 deficits beating Creighton at home on Sept. 12 and Oregon State at the Michigan/adidas Invitational on Sept 18.