Lewis-Clark State claims FC volleyball title with sweep over Carroll
LEWISTON, Idaho – A Ferrari, or perhaps a Porsche, or even maybe a Jaguar. Take your pick almost any sports car would work to describe the ninth-ranked Lewis-Clark State College women’s volleyball team on Saturday night.
Stepping on the gas from the start, the Warriors kept the pedal to the metal and defeated Carroll College 25-20, 25-23, 25-16 in the championship match of the Frontier Conference Tournament at the LCSC Activity Center.
The victory marked the fourth straight year the Warriors have won the conference tournament, all under fourth-year coach Jen Greeny. The Warriors, who have also won or tied for the regular season title all four years, earn the conference’s automatic berth to the 36-team national tournament, also the fourth straight year LCSC has qualified for nationals and 11th overall.
LCSC takes a program-best 20-match win streak into the national tournament and an overall mark of 28-1. The top 12-ranked teams from the final NAIA poll will receive byes into pool play at national, which is Nov. 30-Dec. 4 at Sioux City, Iowa, while the remaining 24 teams will play in 12 loser-out matches to decide the other 12 teams for pool play. If LCSC can remain in the top 12 when the final poll comes out Sunday, they will get a bye to pool play, which should happen with a few teams in the top 10 losing in conference tournament play this week.
The loss brought an end to a strong run by the Saints, 22-10 overall. Carroll was the No. 3 seed in the tournament and rallied from an 0-2 deficit in the semifinals to defeat No. 2 seed Rocky Mountain to advance to the finals.
Carroll, however, lost one of its top middle blockers to an injury during the season and that hole was exposed by the taller Warriors, who had 51 kills and hit .348 for the match. That helped LCSC defeat Carroll for the third time this season and improve Greeny’s four-year mark to 38-0 at home against conference opponents.
“Happiness,” Greeny said when asked to describe what she was feeling after the match. “Happiness because our expectations are so high. We expect to win, but we also know this is not something that is going to be handed to us.”
The Saints did make the Warriors earn it, but had trouble stopping LCSC’s big hitters. Junior middle blocker Nicole Graybeal, who was named the conference MVP earlier in the week, had 13 kills and hit .333 for the match, while Kelly Tikker added 12 kills and a .478 hitting percentage. Fellow junior outside hitter Lauryn Herrick added 11 kills and a .429 hitting percentage.
“Hitting definitely was the key,” Greeny said. “Kelli struggled this morning (in a four-set semifinal win over Westminster) but she came back and hit .478. Nicole was steady again and Lauryn took over the match at times. When your two outside hitters both hit better than .400, it’s really something.”
Unlike in the semifinal win, the Warriors got off to a great start and grabbed a 7-1 lead in the opening set. Carroll rallied to tie the match at 18 and 19, but consecutive kills by Herrick highlighted a 4-0 run and helped the Warriors score six of the final seven points in the set.
“We came out with a lot of fire and energy,” Graybeal said. “Burdette (assistant coach Burdette Greeny) told us before the match we need to step on it from the start and not let up. I think we did that tonight.”
The second set went back and forth early before the Warriors took the lead for good at 14-13. The Warriors led by as much as five at 22-17 on a kill by Graybeal, but Carroll, as it has done all season, rallied and cut the margin to 24-23. LCSC ended the rally, however, when it went to Herrick on the outside for a kill and the win.
Carroll grabbed a 4-0 lead in the third set, but LCSC rallied for a 10-9 lead. At that point the Warrior attack took over as Herrick, Tikker, and Jenika Bird-Jeppsen all had kills for a 13-9 advantage. Carroll cut the lead to three twice, but a pair of service aces by Kim Fong highlighted a 3-0 run, and then the Warriors scored the final four points of the set, including one on an ace by Herrick. She finished with four of LCSC’s eight service aces and now has 73 aces on the season, which is second all-time on LCSC’s single-season list and only trails Tammy Jennings’ mark of 82 in 1992.
Graybeal also had an ace and finished with two solo blocks and three digs.
“This was so much fun,” Graybeal said of the tournament title. “For the school, for my coaches, and for my teammates, it was just amazing out there.”
Alyssa Wold finished with 30 assists for the Warriors, while Tikker had 15 digs and Katie Hinrichs added 14. As a team, LCSC had a 7-5 advantage in blocks and a 51-39 edge in kills.
Kayla Hughes and Sammy Priddy had 11 kills apiece for Carroll, while Caitlin Tocci added 21 assists. Maureen Frauenholtz had 13 digs, while Priddy had 12.
Carroll hit .236 for the match.
The field of 36 teams as well as the first-round pairings will be announced on Sunday.