Bluffton takes down Franklin and Wooster
Beavers clinch a share of Heartland Conference title
October 29, 2011
By: Meghan Mohr and Keisha Holtsberry
BLUFFTON, Ohio - The Bluffton University volleyball team achieved a few more of its goals with decisive wins over Franklin College and the College of Wooster on Saturday, Oct. 29. The Beavers claimed a share of their second Heartland Conference title in three years with the win over Franklin. Bluffton, MSJ, Transy, Hanover and Rose-Hulman all finished the season 7-2 in the HCAC and will be rewarded with a championship banner for the 2011 season. The second Senior Day matchup saw Bluffton demolish a talented Wooster squad for the Beavers' fourth consecutive 20-win season under Coach Yarnell.
The Beavers opened with Franklin College, seeking out a chance at another HCAC title. After trailing 19-9 in the first set, the Beavers put together a miraculous rally with the help of some superb net play by seniors Courtney Zimmerman (Leesburg/Fairfield) and Nicole Wood (Tiffin/Hopewell-Loudon) to win the set 27-25. The Beavers continued to stuff Franklin in the second and third sets, sweeping the Grizzlies 3-0 (27-25, 25-14, 25-10).
The senior trio of hitters once again came out swinging, pounding 41 kills between them. Nicole Wood capped an outstanding week with 18 impressive kills (.471 hitting). Courtney Zimmerman added 12 kills (.550 hitting) and Jenna Eshleman (Landisville, Penn./Hempfield) countered with 11 bombers.
Sophomore Kyleigh Whitsel (Sheffield Lake/Brookside) set up the Beaver offense with 45 assists as well as eight digs.
Defensively, junior libero Heather Schierer (Crescent Springs, Ky./St. Henry) led the team with 14 digs, followed by Eshleman with 11 of her own for her 42nd career double-double. Sophomores Hailey Phillips (Malinta/Patrick Henry) and Lindsay Krohn (Marysville, Ind./New Washington) picked up seven and six digs, respectively.
Senior Nicole Wood ended the second match of the afternoon with 17 spikes against the Scots. Also reaching double-digit kills was fellow senior Jenna Eshleman who knocked down 12 winners. Courtney Zimmerman, Lauren Morrow (Marion/River Valley) and Bethany Behnfeldt (Napoleon) each finished with seven kills. Wood had just four errors on 34 attacks for a .382 hitting percentage.
The Beaver defense was up to the task as three ladies picked up double-digit digs. Junior libero Heather Schierer led Bluffton with 16, while Lindsay Krohn and Jenna Eshelman each came up with 11.
Whitsel set up the front line with 46 helpers and she narrowly missed a double-double with nine digs. She and Schierer rifled four and three aces, respectively, in the four-set victory. Morrow stuffed the Scots with two solo and two block assists. Her seven kills and four blocks both established new career highs as she controlled the net for Bluffton on Senior Day.
By virtue of the tie-breaking procedures, Bluffton earned the #3 seed and will host #6 seed and long-time rival Defiance College in Founders Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 1. That match is slated for 7 or 7:30 p.m. and it is a rematch from this past Wednesday night when Bluffton hosted the Yellow Jackets. The winner of that match will play #2 seed Mount St. Joseph at Hanover on Saturday, Nov. 5, at 5 p.m.