With a 3-2 victory (25-21, 26-24, 18-25, 17-25, 15-8) over 25th-ranked Rocky Mountain College (25-9) on Thursday afternoon, The Master’s College volleyball team finished its time in pool play at the NAIA National Championship tournament with a spotless 3-0 record.
Along with a first-place finish in Pool D, the victory raises the16th-ranked Lady Mustangs’ 2013 season record to 23-8.
But, like the other two pool play victories TMC claimed this week, Thursday’s win came with a handful of challenges that kept the Lady Mustangs on their toes until the final serve.
“A combination of us not executing well and Rocky Mountain making the right adjustments took this match to five sets,” commented head coach Bobby Blanken. “In set four, Rocky Mountain made tactical adjustments and executed well against us. But, in the fifth frame, we made the changes, responded well, and closed out pool play with a solid victory.”
Early on, it appeared that the Lady Mustangs would put the match away in quick fashion after taking the first two sets (25-21, 26-24) away from the Battlin’ Bears.
However, Rocky Mountain’s late-match resurgence came after breaking a 10-10 tie off an Ahlea Billis kill, which sparked a 15-8 run that put the third set away at 25-18. Notably, RMC earned an impressive .275 attack percentage at the end of the set.
The Battlin’ Bears maintained their dominance into the fourth frame by not allowing the Lady Mustangs to take the lead, producing a 25-17 RMC rout.
And while the Lady Mustangs were able to rest easy before the match knowing they would play another game Friday in bracket play regardless of Thursday’s outcome, TMC entered the fourth frame determined to mint a clean sweep in pool D.
Bursting out of the gates, TMC drew first blood in the fifth frame. Even though Rocky Mountain tied the set at 2-2, the Lady Mustangs fought to regain and maintain the lead until two kills from Aubrey Pyburn (Burbank, CA) and kills from Allison Child (Shingle Springs, CA), Ashley Newton (Henderson, NV), and Sam Dougherty (Madera, CA) put the set, and match, away at 15-8.
“Today was a total team effort,” further assessed Blanken after the win. “I think everyone chipped in in the end. What’s helped us be so successful is the way that Rebecca Peluffo has played. She’s helping us control the ball on our side of the net. She’s doing a phenomenal job of making sure our team is in system. I’m so proud of her.”
On top of her 18 digs, Dougherty led all attackers by claiming a staggering 27 kills. Aubrey Bekendam was perfect on assists by producing 58 off her total attempts. Peluffo produced a game-high 33 digs while Child and Sydney Hamilton (Newhall, CA) each chipped in 13 more.
As a team, TMC earned 69 kills, 64 assists, and 105 digs.
So, with the victory, the Lady Mustangs will now wait in anticipation for what bracket play will hold.
In a post-game interview, Blanken expressed his desires for Friday by saying, “Our hope is that we’ll get the tournament’s fourth seed and play the winner of the Wayland Baptist-Indiana Wesleyan match in the afternoon.”
Stay tuned as TMC Sports Information will provide up-to-date information on Friday’s match. To watch Friday’s competition, or follow it live via DakStats, click here. For those that will be around The Master’s College Friday, the game will be shown in the John R. Dunkin Student Center.