KISSIMMEE, Fla. – The 2014 NCCAA National Championships started on a high note for Grace’s volleyball team. The No. 2 seed Lady Lancers (29-10) swept McMurry and Oakland City on Friday to open up pool play.
In Grace’s opening set at NCCAA Nationals, the Lady Lancers pounded out an enthused 25-14 win. McMurry was held to just four kills in the set while Grace enjoyed 15 kills on a .240 percentage. The set ended on a kill from Sierra Smith.
McMurry recovered in the second game and seemed on the verge of leveling the match. The War Hawks jumped out to a 6-2 lead and stayed in front until the final stages. The Lady Lancers trailed 22-15 before mounting a massive rally. Grace won 10 of the next 11 points to seize the improbable 25-23 victory. Kaitlin Kerrigan and Ellie Harp were instrumental in Grace’s comeback as Kerrigan had four kills in that stretch and Harp added two in a row.
In the third set, Grace hopped in front 9-6 to force an early timeout from McMurry. The War Hawks burned their second timeout at the midway point, still trailing 15-9. McMurry clawed back to within four points of Grace’s lead, but it was not enough. Harp ended the sweep with kills on back-to-back points en route to a 25-18 win.
Kerrigan and Calah Kruse led all players with nine kills apiece, and Kruse added 14 digs. Harp had 30 assists, 5 kills, 3 aces and 8 digs, Tori Bontrager tallied seven kills and four block assists, and Hannah Clemmons led all players with 18 digs.
Grace could not have started the second match of the day against Oakland City any better. The Lady Lancers opened the set 10-0 on the sterling serving of Tori Bontrager, forcing Oakland City to use both of its timeouts. The Oaks managed to fight back within six points of Grace’s margin at 19-13, but Grace held on for a 25-15 win.
The second set was much tighter with the sides trading points most of the way. With the score knotted at 20-20, a big block point from Calah Kruse and Grace Woolsey swung momentum Grace’s way, and Woolsey ended the set 25-21 with a kill.
Oakland City pulled in front 19-14 in the late stages of the third set, thanks to a 9-1 run. But Grace showed some fight and tied the score at 22-22. The Oaks scored the next point, but Kruse carried the Lady Lancers to victory over the next three rallies. Kruse had a kill and two blocks, teaming up with Woolsey on the final block point to secure the sweep at 25-23.
Kruse posted her second double-double of the day with 11 kills and 15 digs, and Sierra Smith pounded out 11 kills on 15 attempts. Grace Woolsey had 8 kills, 2 solo blocks and 4 block assists, Ellie Harp tallied 33 assists and seven kills, and Jessica Scherb had a season-best with 12 digs.
The Lady Lancers conclude pool play on Friday at 10 a.m. against Colorado Christian. The eight-team field will then be reseeded for the single-elimination tournament. The quarterfinals take place Friday afternoon with the semifinals and championship held on Saturday.