By Kim Miller
Senior Sports Writer
The women’s volleyball team ensured their spot for the No. 1 seed after defeating both Midway College and Indiana University-Kokomo this week.
Before the game against Indiana University-Kokomo this past Thursday, Coach JP Rader said, “A national tournament berth would be the culmination of a great career for our four seniors. We would hope to get a favorable draw and work our way to the final site in Iowa.”
Now that they have secured the number one spot in the tournament, the girls know their hard work throughout the season has paid off. Together, the team can strive for an even bigger goal: the NAIA Volleyball National Championship at Sioux City, Iowa, from Nov. 26-Dec. 1.
The match against Midway on Tuesday, Oct. 29, seemed to be an easy sweep for the lady Eagles. With pink face paint, pink ribbons, pink shoelaces and pink headbands, the girls demonstrated their support of breast cancer awareness as they confidently took the court.
Allison Rehner had the first kill of the game and led the team in a solid start for the first match.
A highlight of the first match came when senior Kelly Cole had an impressive dig in response to an aggressive pass from Midway. Mackenzie Burke then set the ball and Catherine Wolter spiked it over, furthering their lead. Asbury won the first set 25-9.
The Eagles won the second set with a smaller deficit of a 25-16 win, but the Eagles were unruffled and played with the same intensity. Once again, Cole had other close-call digs, and especially junior Jessie Bartlow had several solid sets. Bartlow had a total of 11 assists for the evening, second only to Burke who had 22.
For the last set, Coach Rader chose to make a substitution towards the end of the match so that all seniors could play together for their last home game of the season, even if they weren’t playing in positions they normally played.
Burke scored the last point of the game in the left-hitter position with the aid of teammate Wolter, ending the last set in a score of 25-15. Cole brought her digs record up to a season total of 685, 16 of them against Midway.
“Our ball handling and serving were particularly strong,” Coach Rader said. “Our front row, Sarah Sterling, Allison Rehner, Catherine Wolter and Cat Starr, played particularly well.”
The Eagles continued their winning streak against Indiana University-Kokomo on Thursday, Oct 31. Although Kokomo had an early lead in the first set and won with a score of 25-17, the lady Eagles did not let it distract them mentally from their goal. They came back to win the final two sets in scores of 25-10 and 25-1.
The fourth set quickly ended in the Eagles’ favor and finalized their spot in the National Tournament– the first time since 2008.
The Eagles’ hitting percentage was one of their best of the year. Wolter hit .522 percent on 23 attacks with only one error, and Sarah Sterling hit .333 on 30 attacks and also had only one error.
“It feels amazing to know all our hard work paid off,” Sterling said. “I’ve been working for three years for this, and the seniors have been for four years! I am proud of our team, and I think we deserved this.”
The lady Eagles have one more season match against Brescia University on Nov. 4 at 6 p.m. in Owensboro, Ky. There will be no pressure in this match as their spot is already secured, but the Eagles hope to keep their winning streak.