SIOUX CITY, IA – The McPherson College volleyball team's first foray into the NAIA National Championships ended in a loss in the first round of pool play to the Rocky Mountain College Battlin' Bears.
The Bears, who were ranked No.9 in the final regular season poll, defeated the Bulldogs in straight sets, 26-24, 25-17, 25-11. The Bulldogs got off to a slow start in the opening set, and the Bears jumped out to a 15-4 lead. It looked like the Bears might run away with the set, but after a timeout, the Bulldogs regrouped, and began to chip away at the lead. They went on a 7-3 run, to cut the lead to 18-12, and then another 5-2 run to get to within three at 20-17. Another 7-4 run by the Mac ladies and the set was tied at 24. Unfortunately, the Bears were able to regroup after blowing and 11 point lead, and closed out the set with the final two points.
Through the first 27 points of the second set, things were neck and neck between the Bulldogs and Bears. Rocky Mountain held a slim 14-13 lead, but the Bulldogs were right there, hanging with the No.9 team in the nation. From there however, things started to slip away for the Bulldogs. RMC went on a 5-1 run to open up a five-point lead, 19-14, forcing a timeout from the Bulldogs. The timeout failed to switch the momentum, and the Bears took the second set 25-17.
The Bulldogs came out strong again in the third set, and tried to swing the match back into their favor. They were in this same position in the opening round against Texas Wesleyan, so there was no panic from the battle tested Bulldogs. The set went back and forth through the first 13 points, with the Bears leading 7-6. From there, the Bears hit another gear, and began to pull away from the Bulldogs. They went on a 7-3 run, to open up the set 14-9. Then things got worse for the Mac women. They couldn't stem the tide, and the Bears closed out the set on an 11-2 run, winning 25-11, and completing the straight sets sweep.
Offensively, the Bulldogs had 31 kills on 144 attack attempts, but had 23 errors, which lowered their hitting percentage to .056. The Bulldogs "Big 4", KCAC Player of the Year Lexi Kite, Leah Seiler, Devrie Sombers, and Riley Bradbury accounted for 27 of the Bulldogs' 31 kills, led by 10 from Kite. Bradbury recorded seven kills on 25 swings, and Sombers and Seiler each tallied five.
On defense, Mac had 76 defensive digs, led by KCAC Libero of the Year, Jamie Siess who came away with 29. Kite and defensive specialist Rianne Richard also notched double digit totals, with 13 and 11 respectively. At the net, the Bulldogs were not as efficient as in other matches, recording only two blocks against Rocky Mountain.
"Overall our first day at nationals has been a great experience.," acting head coach Maggie Hans said, who is filling in for Jessica Cleveland, who gave birth midweek last week. "We were down and bounced back with Kite leading the offense and taking control of the defense. Sombers kept consistent leadership and passion on the floor carrying her team. We are excited to see what tomorrow will bring and bounce back."