Above photo courtesy of the UMHB Athletics Department
BELTON, Texas- For the first time this season, the UMHB volleyball team was taken to five sets, sliding past Texas Lutheran 3-2 (25-19, 16-25, 25-20, 24-26, 15-7) on Wednesday night.
It was an unexpected upset bid from the Bulldogs, who entered the match with a 10-9 record on the year. But the Crusaders, No. 8 in the nation, survived the test in their final non-conference contest of the regular season, keeping their perfect record intact. UMHB is now 18-0 on the year.
“It was a really fun match,” UMHB head coach Mark Pryor said following the match. “We got tested a good amount, and our team is grateful for that. We needed that.”
The critical fifth set saw UMHB take an early 4-1 lead, as the Crusaders never abandoned the advantage. TLU cut the deficit to 6-5, but several errors and a kill from UMHB’s Lauren Williams resulted in a 4-0 run to give the Cru a 10-5 lead. UMHB also tallied the set’s final three points, en route to the match-clinching 15-7 victory.
“It was good to see us thrive in the fifth set, and not fear it,” Pryor added. ” We haven’t played [to five sets] in a while.”
The Cru also opened the contest with a set win, despite trailing for the majority of the first half of it. The opponents traded points for much of the set, as TLU knotted the score at 18 apiece before UMHB mounted a 7-1 run to close out a 25-19 victory.
TLU scored the first five points of set two, and held the lead for the entirety of the set, rebounding to tie the score at 1-1 with a 25-16 win.
UMHB retook the lead in the following set, notching a 25-20 victory on a service ace from Maddie Gillispie. A 5-0 run midway through the set was crucial in the win, as the Cru went from trailing 12-9 to leading 14-12.
But once again, the Bulldogs responded to UMHB’s set win with a victory of their own, leading by as many as four points. At TLU’s set point, the Cru managed to tally three straight points; two came on kills from Sarah Grace Merry. Though that tied the score at 24, the visitors from Seguin forced a fifth set with a 26-24 win.
Merry, who finished with five kills, gave UMHB a 2-1 lead in the fifth set on her final kill of the evening. It was part of a solid offensive showing from the Cru to close out the match, as they hit .333. Interestingly, UMHB actually hit for a lower percentage in the match, .155, compared to TLU’s .184.
Emerging with the victory was a testament to UMHB’s ability to fight back late in matches, and it encouraged Pryor. However, it also revealed a couple of areas in which the Cru will need to improve, especially before facing ETBU on the road on Saturday. The Tigers were the first team to win a set against UMHB this season.
“We are happy with the result,” Pryor said, “but this was an opportunity to have us exposed in a couple areas, and see where we can get better.”
The Crusaders saw contributions from a variety of hitters offensively. Both Kayla Janikula (19), and Hannah Frasca (13) had double digits in kills. Kylie Metcalf added eight, and setter Alli Pierce tallied 43 assists.