WINONA LAKE. – The Grace College volleyball team was not able to topple the reigning Crossroads League champs in a 3-1 defeat to Mt. Vernon Nazarene on Wednesday night.
The Lady Lancers (4-2, 0-1 CL) struggled late in several sets as Mt. Vernon found a way to pull away.
The Cougars (7-0, 1-0 CL) benefitted from 27 attack errors by the Lady Lancers. Grace had 48 kills in the match but struggled to a .143 percentage on offense.
In the opening set, Grace took a 9-8 lead after a kill from Kelsee Zuidema. The teams traded points for the next few minutes until the Cougars seized control. MVNU eventually eased out for a 25-15 win.
The second set was similar. Grace trailed by five points early but rallied to tie the score at 13-13. The score remained deadlocked at 17-17 until the Cougars again eased away late. MVNU ended the set on a 8-2 run to win by six.
Grace found the answer to its late-game struggles in the third set. The Lady Lancers stayed ahead most of the set, leading 14-10 and later 19-17. Taylor Baird ended a long rally with a sneaky attack to give Grace a 22-20 lead, but the Cougars clawed back to tie the game at 23 apiece.
With the game tied at 24, Grace earned the go-ahead point with a block, and the set ended 26-24 on the next point after an error by MVNU.
Grace seemed to gain confidence as the match progressed, but the fourth set ended like the first two. The score was knotted late in the contest at 18-18. The Cougars scored three straight, however, forcing Grace to call timeout.
The timeout did not slow down the Cougars’ momentum as MVNU scored four of the next six points to end the match 25-20.
Sierra Smith led all players with 15 kills on a .312 percentage to go along with four block assists.
Kelsee Zuidema produced 14 kills, 2 aces and 4 digs.
Taylor Baird handed out a match-high 44 assists and added six digs, and Caylie Teel racked up 18 digs.
Savannah Hart ended the night with seven kills and three block assists, and Kari Feddema had 6 kills, 1 solo and 3 block assists.
Defensively, Kaitlin Kerrigan tallied nine digs, and Alexa Hill and Sara Miller chipped in eight apiece.
The Lady Lancers will hit the road over the weekend, traveling to Ohio for the Northwestern Ohio Tournament on Friday and Saturday.