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Sat, Nov. 19, 2011 - [Volleyball]
RICHMOND, Ind. - After two years of getting close, the Freed-Hardeman Lady Lions finally made more history on Saturday afternoon.

For the first time ever, FHU will advance to the Tachikara-NAIA Volleyball National Tournament Final Site thanks to its 3-1 win over Indiana East University in the national tournament opening round.

Freed-Hardeman played in the opening round in each of the last two seasons but fell short both times, in four sets to Lee (Tenn.) University in 2009 and in straight sets to Lindenwood (Mo.) University in 2010.

This year, the Lady Lions left little doubt from the start as to which of the two teams would advance to Sioux City, Iowa, for the first time.

FHU took the first two sets in dominating fashion, 25-15 and 25-16.  

"The girls were pumped an ready to play," said FHU head coach Todd Humphry. "That was obvious when we came out on the floor."

Trailing 10-9 in the first set, the Lady Lions took four straight points and then pulled away by taking 10 of 11 points after IUE got back within one point.

The Lady Lions never trailed in the second set after taking the first five points, leading by as many as 10 points (16-6) before finishing off the set.

The third set was much closer, with IUE taking an early 8-4 lead.  FHU retook the lead, though, and was up 20-16 before the Red Wolves rallied.  Freed-Hardeman eventually got to match point at 24-23, but the Red Wolves took four of the next five points to force a fourth set.

"We got up and relaxed and let them get some momentum," Humphry said.  "You can't do that at home against a good team."

Things went back to the way they started in the fourth set, as the Lady Lions jumped ahead quickly and led by as many as 12 points (20-8) before finishing the match on a kill by Sydney Rice for the 25-16 win.

"We had a game plan and followed it pretty well the first two sets," said Humphry. "We got re-focused for the fourth set.  They knew what they wanted to accomplish."

With the win, the Lady Lions (28-8) advance to Sioux City, Iowa, for the final site of the national tournament.

"This is very special," Humphry said. "It's something we talked about it in August. We were not going to be satisfied with not making it to the final site."

As has been the case throughout the season, Rice and Fernanda Ferreira led the attack with 19 and 18 kills respectively while Nataly Gutierrez added 10.

"The girls played awesome.  They did everything they were supposed to do," said Humphry.  "The crowd was hostile but didn't phase them."

"We wanted it and that is why we won."