Top seed Lewis-Clark State managed to step it up in each set in critical situations to defeat Carroll College 25-21, 25-23, 25-22 in the semifinals of the Bank of Whitman Frontier Conference Tournament at the LCSC Activity Center on Saturday afternoon.
The Warriors, 27-2 overall, advance to the championship match where they will face No. 2 seed Rocky Mountain at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The winner earns an automatic berth into the the 36-team NAIA national tournament while the loser will have to hope for an at-large berth.
LCSC is seeking to win its second straight conference tournament after winning the regular-season title the last two years.
The Warriors, however, needed every bit they had to hold off Carroll College, which finishes the season at 18-10. The Saints used 16 kills from Kayla Hughes and great digging to hang with the Warriors. The problem for Carroll was that when the match hit critical stretches, the Saints made critical mistakes while the Warriors stepped up their game.
"That's what we have been stressing, finish a game and finish a match," LCSC coach Jennifer Greeny said. "When a match is at 20-20 is when you have to step it up and finish."
The Warriors nearly didn't in the first set. They led throughout and built up a 22-13 lead, only to see the Saints rally and cut the margin to three at 23-20 and again at 24-21 before a kill by Austyn Lewis closed out the Warrior win.
The two teams went back in forth in the second set and after Carroll used a four-point run for a 21-19 lead, the Warriors tied the match at 21, 22 and 23 before Lewis picked up another kill and a Carroll hitting error gave the Warriors the win.
In the third set, LCSC again was down 21-19, but scored five straight points for a 24-21 edge. After Carroll cut the lead to two, the Warriors were able to close out the match.
"I don't have any excuse, but the mistakes we made were young mistakes," Carroll coach Maureen Boyle said about her squad, which has only one senior. "We need to learn from these mistakes and carry that into next year. It was youth. But there's a reason why LCSC is ranked, and I think they should be ranked in the Top 10. They are tough. I know they have made us better this season."
Junior Anile Clemente, the conference's Player of the Year, paced the Warriors with 13 kills, while senior Julie Maciboba added 11 and freshman Lauryn Herrick eight. The Warriors hit .270 for the match, while Carroll hit .191.
"I thought we served well and our middle played well," Greeny said. "And our blocking picked up toward the end."
The Warriors collected nine blocks in the match to four for Carroll. LCSC also had four service aces, including two from Clemente, and made only three service errors.
Abby Bruya had 18 assists for LCSC, while Lisa Davis had 13. Lindsay Scott added 19 digs, while Clemente had 11.
Katie St. John paced Carroll with 22 assists and two service aces, while Maureen Frauenholtz had 16 digs.
Looking ahead to the championship match, LCSC and Rocky Mountain split during the regular season, each winning on their home court. LCSC swept Rocky early in the season, while RMC claimed a four-set win over the Warriors in the final regular season match last Saturday.
"We'll have to come ready because they have so many different weapons," Greeny said. "We can't be focused on stopping one person. It will be a tough match, but we're looking forward to it."