SIOUX CITY, Iowa – The Master's College volleyball team the opened the pool play portion of the NAIA Volleyball National Championship tournament Tuesday afternoon against MidAmerica Nazarene University in a thrilling five-set match at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
At the end of the match, the 16th-ranked Lady Mustangs bested the eighth-ranked Pioneers 3-2, raising its season record to 21-8, and its 2013 NAIA tournament pool play record to 1-0.
The first set began with TMC fighting to overtake MidAmerica's early lead as the Pioneers got onto the board first. After tying the match four different times (1-1, 2-2, 5-5, 6-6), the Lady Mustangs took the lead off an Alison Child (Shingle Springs, CA) kill, bringing the score to 7-6. From there, TMC rocketed to a 13-6 lead off four MNU attack errors and two Ashley Newton (Henderson, NV) service aces. The Pioneers then methodically chopped down the Lady Mustangs' lead to one point at the 18-17 score mark. But a Morgan Fay (Santa Clarita, CA) kill gave TMC a much-need spark, sending The Lady Mustangs on a 7-1 run, and ending the set at 25-18.
The second frame's result was less than desirable when TMC fell to the Pioneers 25-20. What proved to be a close fight in the early stages ended with MNU breaking the set's final tie off an Emily Hester kill, bring the score to 17-16. The Pioneers then controlled the rest of the set by tallying 6 kills and capitalizing off 3 Mustang attack errors.
With the match evened at 1-1, the Lady Mustangs entered the third set looking to regain the lead.
Unfortunately, TMC faced a steeper climb at the end of the third frame by falling to the Pioneers to the tune of 25-21. Mirroring the start of the two previous sets, the Lady Mustangs kept the score close before MNU broke the set's fifth tie score at 11-10 off a TMC attack error. A Lady Mustang comeback fell short when MNU called a timeout after Sam Dougherty (Madera, CA) notched a kill that brought the score to 20-19. Despite the Lady Mustangs' best efforts, the Pioneers reeled off a 5-2 run backed by 3 kills, 1 service ace, and a TMC service error.
Facing a must-win situation, TMC entered the fourth frame determined to keep their postseason dreams alive.
Down, but not out TMC answered back to MNU's scoring onslaught by taking the fourth frame at 25-20 and tying the match at 2-2. Displaying an effort that hadn't been seen since the first set, the Lady Mustangs got on the board and controlled the lead until an MNU Heredia kill tied the score at 16-16. But, a Newton kill put the Navy and Gold up 17-16. Audrey Bekendam (Orland, CA) then came up big for TMC by producing 3 kills, giving the Lady Mustangs a 20-17 lead. Kills by Dougherty, Newton, Child, and Bekendam brought the final score to 25-20, forcing a decisive fifth frame.
The thrilling fifth set began with Child and Dougherty putting the Navy and Gold on the board first with a 2-0 lead. An MNU kill by Linjun Ji brought the score to 2-1, but the Lady Mustangs responded with a 5-0 run before the Pioneers called a timeout looking to slowdown TMC's momentum. Despite a threatening seven-point Pioneer comeback, the Mustangs held onto the lead and closed the set, and match, at 15-9.
Dougherty lead the Lady Mustangs with 25 kills, a 4.69 hitting percentage, and 13 digs. Newton followed Dougherty's stellar performance by notching 14 kills, and 10 digs. Notably, Bekendam produced 59 assists.
With the win, the Lady Mustangs are now tied with fellow Pool D member, Madonna University. Earlier in the day, the Madonna Crusaders bested Rocky Mountain College in five sets (22-25, 25-19, 25-27, 25-9, 15-13). Tomorrow, the Crusaders will face the Lady Mustangs in an 11:00 AM (PST) match that will temporarily decide who will control the pool.
Fourth-ranked Madonna enters the 2013 NAIA Volleyball National Championship at 38-0, the second time in the 27-year history of the program that the Crusaders have been undefeated heading into the national summit (2005; 44-0). Head coach Jerry Abraham has the most wins of any NAIA volleyball coach with 1,043 heading to Sioux City as his squad is making its 13th appearance in the national tournament. Abraham – who was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 2004 and was the 2005 NAIA Coach of the Year – also serves as MU's head softball coach.
The Crusaders have lost just 10 sets all season and rolled through the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC) at 11-0 to win the program's 14th WHAC title since joining the league in 1997. MU swept the WHAC Championship with 3-0 wins over Indiana Tech, Aquinas and Lourdes to win its second straight WHAC Tournament title. Senior Emilie Freeman was named the WHAC's Player of the Year while senior setter Evia Prieditis was tabbed as the league's Setter of the Year for the third time in her career (2010, '12, '13). Prieditis – who was the WHAC Player of the Year in 2012 - was selected to the NAIA All-America second team in 2012.
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