SIOUX CITY, Iowa --- Biola won its pool and advanced to the quarterfinal round of the 2012 NAIA Volleyball National Championships with a thrilling 25-18, 22-25, 25-18, 15-25, 17-15 win over No. 9 Lee University (Tenn.) to wrap up pool play on Thursday afternoon at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
Biola plays its quarterfinal match on Friday night at 5:45 p.m. CT against the winner of the match between MidAmerica Nazarene University, the No. 5 seed in bracket play, and the No. 12 seed in bracket play, which will be determined later Thursday night. That match takes place at 10:00 a.m.
Biola placed four players in double-figures in kills, led by senior Christine Douglas' 16 kills. Junior middle blocker Chelsee Arnitz added 15 kills while sophomore middle blocker Amy Weststeyn had 12 kills and contributed nine blocks including two solo.
The match was a back and forth affair with both teams look great at times and poor at others.
After the teams split the first four sets, the fate of the pool rested in a game to 15. After exchanging points, Biola took the early lead in the final set with three-straight points on kills by Douglas and Weststeyn and a Lee attack error.
The Flames worked back into the set, eventually tying the score at 8-8. But Biola rallied again and broke the tie with a kill by Douglas followed by back-to-back blocks by Weststeyn and Gallarda to make it an 11-9 game.
The teams exchanged points again until a kill by freshman Britta Blaser gave Biola match point at 14-11. However, Lee wasn't ready to call it quits, though and rallied with three-straight points to tie the score at 14-14. But the next attack by the Lady Flames was long and Biola had another match-point. Lee then tied it up again with a big block to make it 15-15.
Off the serve, Arnitz took a big swing and was able to record the kill to give Biola its fifth match-point. After a long rally and two great defensive plays by the Eagles, Douglas slammed down the winning point just inside the side line.
The victory improves Biola to 6-0 in five-set matches at the NAIA National Tournament under Head Coach Aaron Seltzer.
Biola opened the match with a strong showing in a first set dominated by runs. The Eagles started the match with a 5-1 run only to see Lee respond with a 4-1 run to make it 6-5. Biola then rattled off another 5-1 run to go up 11-6 followed by a 5-1 Lady Flame run which made it 12-11.
But Biola was able to pull away with a 6-0 run to take a commanding 20-12 lead. After fending off a quick 4-1 run by Lee, the Eagles put the set away with back-to-back kills by Arnitz to win 25-18.
In the second set, Biola used a six-point run to break open a close game and take a 16-12 lead. After the teams traded points, Lee used a 6-1 run to take back the lead at 20-19. Biola answered back with two quick points, but then got sloppy. A service error, double and attack error, gave Lee a 23-21 lead. That would key a 6-1 run for Lee to close out the set with a 25-22 win.
Biola responded with a solid third set, pulling away late. Down 15-14, the Eagles scored five-straight points, starting a 9-2 run to give the Eagles a strong 23-17 lead. After a kill by Lee, Arnitz got a kill followed by set error by Lee which gave Biola a 25-18 win and a 2-1 lead.
But Biola came out with one of its worst sets of the season as Lee battled back with its back against the wall. The Lady Flames opened the fourth set with a 11-2 lead and cruised to a 25-15 win.
That set up the exciting fifth set, which Biola ended up winning.
Neither team hit terribly well as Biola posted a .157 attack percentage while holding Lee to a .134 mark.
Tara Rallis had 24 digs to lead Biola's defensive performance while Charley Parker added 16 and Chrissy Cunningham contributed 10.
Setter Gracee Gallarda was just a few assists off her career-high, recording a match-high 53 while adding 17 digs for her sixth double-double of the season. She also had three blocks and two assists.
Irene Ojukwu led Lee with 19 kills while Paula Martins added 12.