By Matt Green
VALDOSTA, Ga. -- The Shorter volleyball program introduced itself to the Gulf South Conference for the first time on Thursday evening in Valdosta, Ga.
The Lady Hawks' NCAA Division II debut turned out to be a rousing success.
Jasmine Crook tied a career high with 22 kills -- including eight in a momentum-turning fourth set -- to pace four Lady Hawks in double figure kills and lead Shorter to a 3-2 victory over host Valdosta State.
Leslie Welch added 12 kills, Jennifer Campbell and Anna Graham chipped in with 10 kills apiece and Jordan Corder dished out 49 assists as the Lady Hawks improved to 6-0 overall and 1-0 in their new Division II home, the Gulf South Conference.
Corder also tallied a team high 16 digs for Shorter, which rallied from 2-1 down in the match to stun the Blazers (6-3). A dominant 25-17 victory in the fourth set evened the match at two sets apiece and the Lady Hawks fought back from 9-7 down in the fifth set to secure the historic victory.
The Lady Hawks, who are coming off a record-setting 2011 season during which the team compiled a program-best 29 victories, looked comfortable and confident throughout despite losing an early lead in the match.
Shorter won a back-and-forth opening set with a late charge. Valdosta State's Destiny Berry recorded a kill to put the Blazers ahead 23-20 in the frame, but Shorter closed on a 5-0 run ignited by back-to-back kills from Graham to score a 25-23 victory in the first set and take a 1-0 lead in the match.
The Blazers rallied to win the second and third sets by identical 25-20 margins, but Shorter stood its ground in an impressive fourth frame.
The Lady Hawks, led by Crook's incredible performance, hit .325 in the fourth and used a 7-2 spurt midway through the set to build a 17-10 lead. Shorter led by as much as nine in the set -- a Graham kill put the Lady Hawks up 23-14 at one juncture -- and Campbell forced a fifth set with a kill that wrapped up Shorter's 25-17 win in the fourth.
The Lady Hawks went up 5-2 to start the fifth, but a 7-2 run by the Blazers dealt the home team a 9-7 advantage.
Following a timeout, Shorter regained the momentum by setting the middle. Consecutive kills from Campbell tied the set at 10 before Welch gave Shorter an 11-10 edge with her 10th kill of the match. Welch broke another deadlock at 12-all moments later with another smash down the middle and after Crook tied her career high with her 22nd kill to force match point, Welch came through again, recording her third kill of the decisive fifth set to secure a 15-12 Shorter win.
Loren Olive and Tanequa Whitman had 13 digs each for Shorter in the victory. Olive also had three service aces giving her four for the season and moving her within eight aces of tying the school record of 163 held by former Shorter standout Katie Van Hofwegen.
Katie Onushko led Valdosta State with 15 kills and Hope Ripsam had 35 assists.
Shorter returns to action on Saturday, September 15 with a 2 pm tilt against Gulf South Conference foe West Florida in Pensacola.