Bluffton 3, Mt. St. Joseph 2
Beavers rally for five set win over MSJ in HCAC finals
Nov. 8, 2009
By: Erin Neal, sports information assistant
BLUFFTON, Ohio -The Bluffton University women's volleyball team gave a brand new meaning to the saying, "it ain't over until it's over" Sunday afternoon. The Beavers battled the Lions of the College of Mount St. Joseph in a thrilling match that went down to a decisive fifth set. Bluffton pulled through, winning 3-2 (22-25, 13-25, 26-24, 25-18, 15-12).
With the win, the Beavers claimed their first ever Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament championship along with an automatic bid into the NCAA national tournament. The Beavers will be one of only 62 teams left in the country to compete in the tournament, placing them among the elite in college volleyball. Heading into the tournament the Beavers stand 27-5 overall, including a perfect 8-0 mark in the HCAC.
It was the perfect game-day atmosphere in Founders Hall as the Beaver faithful filled the stands and lined the stage. Despite dropping the first two sets 25-22 and 25-13, the Beavers clawed their way back into the match in a third set that saw no team lead by more than three points. The Beavers also went on to take the fourth set after jumping out to a solid 5-0 start over the Lions. Finally, in set five, after a monster block from Heather Rodman (Mansfield/Mansfield Christian) and Nicole Wood (Tiffin/Hopewell-Loudon), followed by a Wood kill, the Beavers sealed the deal and won the clincher 15-12.
For the match, the Beavers saw significant play from key players throughout. Leading the way for the Beaver attack was outside hitting duo Jenna Eshleman (Landisville, Penn./Hempfield) and Wood, who each pounded down 14 kills. They were followed by Allison Streicher (Continental) with eight kills, Courtney Zimmerman (Leesburg/Fairfield) with seven kills and Rodman with three kills. Junior setter Shauna Rowland (Bucyrus/Wynford) directed the offense with 39 assists.
In the face of a 30-kill effort from Mt. St. Joseph's power outside hitter Jamie Grauvogel, the Beavers proved it was their defense that would ultimately help them prevail in the match-up. A plethora of defenders contributed stellar performances. Senior libero Brittany Roth (Findlay) led the backline with 18 digs, and she was followed by 12 digs from Kayla Pickering (Jamestown/Greenview) and Streicher. Eshleman and Rowland each scooped up 10 digs. Middle hitters Rodman and Zimmerman conquered at the net as they had four block assists apiece and two solo blocks and one solo block, respectively.
Following the match, the members of the 2009 HCAC All-Tournament Team were named. Jamie Grauvogel and Jess Gadberry from Mount St. Joseph, Anderson University's Stephanie Weinman, Sara Porter from Defiance College, and Bluffton's Shauna Rowland and Nicole Wood were honored with all-tournament team accolades. Bluffton's own Jenna Eshleman was named the tournament MVP for the weekend.
The Beavers move on to NCAA tournament play this weekend, Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 12-14. In first-round action, Bluffton will take on Ohio Northern at 3 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12, at Hope College in Holland, Mich.