SIOUX CITY, Iowa --- No. 4 Biola punched its ticket to the bracket play portion of the 2012 NAIA Volleyball National Championship Tournament with a 25-19, 25-22, 16-25, 25-16 win over No. 17 Missouri Baptist University in a pool play match on Wednesday afternoon at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
The Eagles improve to 29-4 on the season with the victory and move to 2-0 in Pool D. The Spartans fall to 34-5 and to 0-2 in the pool.
Senior outside hitter Nicolette Mather had her best match in a while, recording eight kills in 15 swings to push her over 1,000 kills in her four-year career at Biola. Mather becomes just the 12th player in program history to reach 1,000 kills and has 1,003 through Wednesday's match.
Biola received another solid performance from its middle blockers, led by sophomore Amy Weststeyn, who recorded 17 kills and two blocks. Weststeyn posted a .571 attack percentage in the match, committing just two errors.
Junior Chelsee Arnitz split some time between middle blocker and right-side in the match, finishing with 13 kills, two blocks and a .423 attack percentage.
Senior outside hitter Christine Douglas added 14 kills and a .367 attack percentage.
Biola led from start to finish in the first set, jumping out to a 6-2 lead and leading 11-10 after a short run by Missouri Baptist. The Eagles responded with a five-point run keyed by a pair of combo-blocks from Mather and Weststeyn. Mather then recorded back-to-back kills a few points later to give Biola a commanding 19-12 lead. The teams would exchange points from there with the Eagles winning 25-19.
The second set was a lot closer thanks in large part to six service errors by Missouri Baptist. Biola opened up strong with an 8-4 lead early on. But the Spartans started putting things together and went on a long 12-5 run to take back the lead at 16-13. The Eagles responded with three quick points to tie the game, starting an 11-4 run which gave them set point at 24-20. A few points later, the Eagles held a 2-0 lead in the match with a 25-22 win.
Biola Head Coach Aaron Seltzer changed things up in the third set and the gamble did not pay off. Missouri Baptist came out strong, opening the set with a 14-8 lead. Biola scored three-straight to make it an 14-11 game, but the Spartans closed out the set on an 11-5 run to easily win 25-16.
The Eagles went back to their normal lineup in the fourth set and dominated in a big way. After falling behind 5-3 early, Biola went on a 7-1 run which including Mather's 1,000th kill to go up 10-6. Leading 15-12 at the midway point, the Eagles closed out the match strong, outscoring the Spartans 9-4 the rest of the way for the win.
Biola recorded an impressive 21 kills in the fourth set with its other four points coming on MBU attack errors, posting a .543 attack percentage. Overall, the Eagles hit .347 while holding the Spartans to a .274 mark.
Junior setter Gracee Gallarda had another solid match, recording 52 assists and adding three kills, two aces and seven digs. She even recorded a big solo block at a pivotal point in the fourth set.
Junior libero Tara Rallis finished with 17 digs while sophomore defensive specialist Charley Parker contributed 14 for the Eagles.
Missouri Baptist received a career-high 17 kills from Taylor Cook while Madeline Nesbit recorded 12 kills on 18 swings for a .667 attack percentage.
Biola closes out pool play on Thursday with a big re-match against No. 9 Lee University (Tenn.) beginning at 3:15 pm CST (1:15 pm PST). Lee won a thrilling five-set match against Lindsey Wilson on Wednesday to improve to 2-0 in the pool. The winner of the Lee/Biola match wins the pool though both teams advance out of pool play. Biola beat Lee in four sets earlier this season at the Concordia Labor Day Festival.