No. 5 Columbia handles No. 8 Warriors in pool-play finale
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Both teams will be moving on to the elimination bracket portion of the NAIA Volleyball National Championship, but the team with extra bragging rights and a higher seed will be Columbia College as the No. 5 Cougars took down the No. 8-ranked Lewis-Clark State College volleyball team on Thursday 26-24, 26-28, 25-19, 25-22.
“It was in our control, but we had too many unforced errors,” said LCSC head coach LaToya Harris. "It was amazing how we fought back, but we put too much pressure on ourselves to do that."
The Warriors are now 23-5 on the season and finish pool play with a mark of 2-1. The Cougars improve to 38-3 overall and 3-0 in pool play. The other two teams in LCSC’s group, Point Loma Nazarene and Indiana Tech, finish pool play at 1-2 and 0-3, respectively, and have been eliminated.
Lewis-Clark State will be the ninth seed entering the 12-team single-elimination bracket portion of the tournament and will be pitted against eighth-seeded Azusa Pacific University, ranked No. 6. The two teams will face off at 8 a.m., Pacific time, on Friday with the winner advancing to play top-seeded and top-ranked Concordia University at 3:45 p.m.
LCSC, making its 12th appearance at nationals, definitely proved it can compete with teams like Columbia, which fell to Fresno Pacific in last season’s title match.
The score in the first set went back and forth with Columbia first gaining a 4-2 edge, LCSC responding to pull in front 11-8, Columbia working its way to a 19-15 lead, and then the Warriors tying it up at 24-24. The Cougars took the final two volleys with a kill by setter Paula Ferreira and an attack error by the Warriors.
"Our momentum was taken away by hitting errors throughout the match," said Harris. "The team that was going to make less errors was going to win the match."
LCSC trailed most of the second set, but was able to come up with big shots right when it needed to. After being down 16-12, the Warriors tied it up at 17, and then again at 22, 23, 24, and 25. Finally after tying it up at 26-26 thanks to a kill by Kelli Tikker, Columbia committed back-to-back attack errors and the Warriors took the set.
The Cougars were able to build healthy leads in both sets three and four. The Warriors relinquished the third set with not too much of a struggle, but gave the Cougars all they could handle in the fourth.
Despite Columbia bolting to leads of 15-7 and 18-11, the Warriors never gave up in the fourth set and were able to fight back and tie it up at 20-20. But from here the Cougars claimed four of the next six volleys and won the final point of the match with a service ace.
"Our team has to play with a sense of urgency from start to finish," said Harris. "When it is close to the end of a set we start pushing with the energy. We are good at coming back, but it was too late."
Columbia outhit LCSC .221 to .182 on the match and had a 8-5 edge in aces, while the Warriors led 8-6 in blocks.
Tikker topped LCSC with 12 kills, while Nicole Graybeal had a very strong game with 10 kills, a .429 hitting percentage, a solo block, and seven block assists. Lauryn Herrick and Brianne Brown had nine and eight kills, respectively.
Ferreira and Vesna Trivunovic led the Cougars with 11 kills each, while Ola Shawky and Kelly Corkum had 10 apiece. Corkum also had four blocks.
Fellow Frontier Conference member Rocky Mountain College, ranked No. 7, finished pool play a perfect 3-0 after sweeping higher ranked Azusa Pacific on Thursday. Rocky will face 12th-seeded College of Idaho at 8 a.m. on Friday.
"It's great for our conference," said Harris about Rocky upsetting Azusa Pacific. "We've beaten Rocky before so it gives us some more confidence against Azusa, but we have to show up first."
This will be the second straight season that LCSC has faced Azusa Pacific in the first round of bracket play. Last year the Warriors topped Azusa in four sets.