By Josh Neuhart
Grace College Sports Information
WINONA LAKE – Grace’s volleyball team was unable to pick up a win in the Crossroads League Tournament, falling to St. Francis 3-1 on Tuesday.
The Lady Lancers’ offense was strong, producing nine more kills than the Cougars and 10 more assists.
But the Cougars were efficient. USF had only 16 attack errors — 10 fewer than the Lady Lancers (8-8). The Cougars also aced Grace seven times and tallied eight block points.
The first two sets split the match. USF won the opening set 25-19 despite having just eight kills. Grace’s eight attack errors cost the home team in the defeat.
Grace quickly tied the match with an eight-point win in the second set. Late kills from Paige Eakright, Cassadi Colbert and Katie Swanson proved critical to keep momentum on Grace’s side.
The teams fought fiercely in the third, seeking to pull ahead in the match. A pair of kills from Eakright gave Grace a 19-17 edge.
But Grace surrendered five straight points after that — three coming off unforced errors — which gave the Cougars (10-9) the life they needed. USF held on late to win 25-22, picking up the decisive edge in the match.
The Lady Lancers fell behind in the early stages of the fourth set, facing an 11-5 deficit. But Grace showed its resolve soon after with six unanswered points, capped off by back-to-back kills from Gabbey Harrington to tie the score at 16-16.
The Cougars won four of the next five points, however, which proved to be the gap they needed en route to a 25-20 win.
Colbert tied for match honors with 13 kills on a .267 percentage, and Eakright and Swanson each had 12 kills.
Harrington finished with 42 assists, 7 kills and 5 digs, and Gina Novotny led all players with 17 digs.
Jenna Mueller made her return to the court and was strong offensively with six kills on nine swings (.556 percentage), and Emily Sharp and Brittany Baize each tallied 11 digs.
While the loss ends Grace’s hopes of reaching the NAIA National Championships, the Lady Lancers will quickly shift focus to the NCCAA Championships.
Grace has already qualified for NCCAA Nationals in Saint Paul, Minn. The opening match of pool play will take place on Thursday, Oct. 19, with the opponent to be announced later this week.