Don’t let the 3-0 score fool you.
The NAIA Volleyball National Championship Opening Round match featuring Cal State University San Marcos and The Master’s College was a dogfight.
At the end of three lengthy sets, the Lady Mustangs (20-8) bested the Cougars (26-12) 3-0 (27-25, 28-26, 25-22) in front of a rambunctious crowd at Bross Court.
“I’m very proud of our team,” commented fifth-year head coach Bobby Blanken. “It was a team win. We played a team-style defense and earned a tremendous victory.”
The evening’s first set was close all the way to the very end when Aubrey Bekendam (Orland, CA) and Sam Dougherty (Madera, CA) tacked on two consecutive kills, bringing the score to a decisive 27-25. Notably, set one featured 25 tie scores.
In the second frame, TMC faced an early 0-6 deficit before battling back to even the score at 11-11. Similar to the first set, the remainder of game two stayed close until a Morgan Fay (Santa Clarita, CA) kill and a Cougar attack error closed the set at 28-26.
Set three displayed a more ambitious Lady Mustang squad as TMC got on the board early and never once let the Cougars take the lead. It took some doing, but TMC managed to pull out a 25-22 victory, bringing the match to a close at 3-0.
At the end of the night, the Lady Mustangs produced 52 kills and a .172 attack percentage. TMC also notched 41 assists and 79 digs. Notably, the match featured 52 score ties.
And while it was truly a team victory, two Lady Mustangs stood out amongst the rest.
“Two people that stuck out to me more than the rest were Aubrey Bekendam and Morgan Fay,” further assessed Blanken.
“Aubrey helped run the offense and remained steady. She contributed so much and gave a lot of leadership.”
Bekendam, a sophomore, earned 39 assists, 14 digs, 7 kills, and finished the night with .500 attack percentage.
“Fay showed tremendous poise, leadership, and strength. As a freshmen, she came out with no fear and came up big. I’m very proud of her.”
Fay tied Dougherty in kills with 12, while finishing the night with a .321 hitting percentage.
Senior libero Rebecca Peluffo (La Crescenta, CA) also contributed to the opening round victory by earning 24 digs. Dougherty tacked on 13 more while Sydney Hamilton (Santa Clarita, CA) produced 11.
With the win, Blanken and his Lady Mustangs will pack their bags and head to Sioux City, Iowa – the final sight of the NAIA Volleyball National Championship Tournament. It will be the program’s second ever appearance at the final sight of the national tournament.
“We’re excited!” assessed Blanken. “We have nine freshmen, and I’m excited to give the squad the experience to compete against some of the nation’s top talent. We’re thrilled to make a second consecutive appearance.”
The 12 Opening Round winners from Saturday join the teams with a bye, who were the top 11 teams ranked in the final NAIA Volleyball Coaches’ Top 25 Poll released on Nov. 17, in addition to the National Championship final site host team, Briar Cliff (Iowa). These 24 teams meet up in Sioux City, Iowa, from Dec. 3 – 7 in the National Championship final site.
The final site pool play bracket will be announced on Sunday by 5 p.m. CST on www.NAIA.org. There will be four teams placed in six different pools, with the top two teams from each pool advancing to bracket play.
Last year, TMC made its first appearance in program history at the NAIA National Tournament. The Lady Mustangs advanced from the tournament’s pool play by besting Cal State San Marcos and Indiana Weselyan in one-set tiebreakers. The next day, the Lady Mustangs fell to the Oklahoma Baptist Bison 3-1 in single elimination play, bringing their 2012 record to a close at 27-8 (10-4 GSAC).