Tampa Spartans win volleyball national title

Published Dec. 7, 2014

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Tampa captured the Division II volleyball national title Saturday with a 25-14, 25-20, 25-21 sweep of Southwest Minnesota State.

The national championship is the second for the Spartans (34-1) and their first since 2006. Both came under coach Chris Catanach, who has been at UT since 1984.

"I'm really proud of the kids and how they played tonight, and the entire season," Catanach said. "Tonight they played well under heavy pressure. … I'm so proud of this group of student-athletes and their accomplishments."

The Mustangs (26-10) handed Tampa its only loss of the season on Sept. 12, but the No. 1-ranked Spartans weren't about to have a repeat performance. Since that defeat, UT had won 29 consecutive matches entering the final.

Fittingly, junior Berkley Whaley blasted a kill for the match's final point. Earlier in the week, Whaley, a former Lakewood High standout, was named Division II's player of the year by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.

Leading the Spartans in attacking in the final was All-American Jessica Wagner, who had seven kills at a .667 clip. The middle blocker also had attack averages of more than .850 during the team's Elite Eight and Final Four matches, earning her the tournament's most outstanding player.

Whaley, junior Marissa Lisenbee and senior setter Kahley Patrick were also named to the all-tournament team.

Junior right-side hitter Megan Heffron was an offensive catalyst with nine kills and one assist. Megan Burke and Patrick also registered kills in the victory, tallying two and one, respectively. "To make it to the finals and win, it's an amazing feeling," Patrick said. "I couldn't have asked for anything more from my team, coaches and everyone who supported us."

GATORS GET SWEET: Florida advanced to the Division I Sweet 16 with a 13-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-21 win over visiting Miami. The Gators (27-3), who are in the NCAA region semi­finals for the 21st time in program history, travel to Ames, Iowa, to play Illinois on Friday.

Ex-USF athletic director Woolard leaves early

TAMPA — Former USF athletic director Doug Woolard left the university's payroll earlier than expected and is in line for a consulting job with his alma mater, Southern Illinois.

When Woolard announced in January that he would retire, the school indicated he would remain employed in behind-the-scenes capacities until his contract expired in June 2015. Instead, school spokeswoman Lara Wade said via email Saturday that his pay and employment at USF ended in early July.

"An agreement was reached accelerating Mr. Woolard's retirement with USF, which was effective July 2014," Wade wrote.

The details of Woolard's advisory contract still are being finalized, an SIU news release indicated.

Times staff writer Joey Knight contributed to this report.