Warriors tame Sea Lions; clinch spot in championship bracket
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – The No. 8-ranked Lewis-Clark State College volleyball team defeated No. 18 Point Loma Nazarene 25-14, 19-25, 25-21, 25-18 on day two of pool play at the NAIA Volleyball National Championship on Wednesday. Beyond moving the Warriors to 2-0 in pool play and 23-4 on the year, the victory is significant for a couple of additional reasons.
The first reason, and most important, is that the Warriors are now guaranteed to be 1-of-12 teams to advance to the single-elimination bracket portion of the National Tournament. No. 5 Columbia defeated No. 17 Indiana Tech in three sets on Wednesday, and this makes both LCSC and Columbia 2-0 so far in pool play while Point Loma and Indiana Tech are 0-2. Thus, regardless of the outcome of the 1:15 p.m., Pacific time, meeting between LCSC and Columbia on Thursday, the Warriors will be one of the top two teams in the pool.
The second reason why the win on Wednesday might feel a little better than usual is the payback that comes with it. Point Loma upset the Warriors during pool play last season, and LCSC’s upperclassmen were poised to not let it happen again.
“They remembered Point Loma from last year,” said LCSC head coach LaToya Harris about her returning players. “They had some revenge in mind.”
With the exception of the second set, the Warriors hit extremely well against the Sea Lions. In set No. 1, LCSC pounded a .429 hitting percentage, and followed with a .407 clip in the third. This resulted in a .267 to .150 hitting advantage for the Warriors.
“I would say this is one of the best games we’ve played all year,” said Harris. “Everyone was focused and excited. We brought a lot of energy to the court, we moved faster, and had an amazing connection that we haven’t had in a while. It was a lot of fun to watch.”
Kelli Tikker led the Warriors with 12 kills on a .308 hitting mark; while Nicole Graybeal, Nevena Dragovic, and Brianne Brown added eight kills apiece.
The eight kills was a season-high for Dragovic, a setter from Belgrade, Serbia. The sophomore caught the Sea Lions off guard with dump shots throughout the match and finished with an impressive .700 hitting percentage.
For the second straight day the Warriors blocked well and ended up with a 10-3 advantage in blocks. Graybeal had five total, Chelsea Strong had four, and Tikker came up with three.
The Warriors also continue to serve well as they collected six service aces against just six service errors. Brown, Lauryn Herrick, and Kaylee Rector had two aces apiece.
Coming into the match LCSC’s goal was to slow down Point Loma outside hitter Tabitha Henken. The senior finished with 16 kills and a .289 hitting clip, but the Warriors were happy nonetheless with their damage control.
“Point Loma was setting high and she [Henken] was hitting over us for a while,” said Harris. “We were going up earlier than we needed to, so we adjusted and were able to stop her.”
Delaney McCraney was the only other Sea Lion to finished with over ten kills as she collected 14 with a .257 hitting percentage.
With the exception of the third set, none of the sets were nail-biters as far as the score goes. LCSC enjoyed big leads in the first and fourth sets, and Point Loma had a comfortable lead in set No. 2.
In set No. 3, the lead changed hands four times before the Warriors were able to rally for the victory. LCSC was behind 19-15 at one point.
The Warriors will now set their focus on Thursday’s contest against Columbia. Despite the fact that the outcome of the match will not affect which two teams advance out of the pool, Harris said that her team will treat Thursday’s contest as a must-win.
“We came here to win every match we play.”