The Wildcat volleyball team’s season ended in disappointing fashion on Thursday, Nov. 17 at the UCM Multipurpose Building in Missouri.
The ‘Cats lost 3-2 to the University of Central Missouri in the first round of the NCAA Division II South Central Region volleyball tournament.
Central Missouri went on to beat Lone Star Conference foe Angelo State University in the second round and Washburn University in the third round. The team will play Concordia University, St. Paul in the quarterfinals on Dec. 1.
Head coach Kellen Mock’s ACU squad finished the 2011 season at 21-14 and 14-6 in the LSC. UCM improved to 28-4 on the year.
The Wildcats looked as though they would cruise to a first round upset after winning set one and two 25-22 and 25-21 respectively. ACU controlled Central Missouri with a .325 hitting percentage and 28 kills versus only 5 attack errors during that span. The ‘Cats never trailed in the first set. Kalynne Allen ended set one with a kill.
UCM scored the first eight points of the second game, then led 15-8 off a kill by Taylor Goodness. However, ACU managed to outscore the Jennies 17-6 in the remainder of the set.
Central Missouri wasn’t going down without some kind of a fight. The Jennies showed why their ranked No.6 in the nation by outscoring Abilene Christian 65-29 in the final three sets and hit a combined .374 over the last three sets.
Kelsie Edwards said the team played with confidence in the first two sets.
“We played well. We had a calm confidence about us that attributed to our success in the two games we won. Central Missouri didn’t make mistakes in sets three, four, or five. They played almost perfect.”
Caley Johnson agreed with Edwards, “It was exciting to come out on fire in the first two sets. I was sad we lost but they were a tough opponent.”
“It felt like we were playing at a whole new environment,” said Edwards. “The teams at the tournament were all extremely talented. It was a huge honor to be apart of.”
UCM was helped by recording only five total attack errors in the final three sets on top of 39 kills. The Wildcats on the other hand, had 18 errors and hit .023 in games one, two, and three.
The ‘Cats finished the second half of the season on a much better note than the first part. Through the first 17 matches ACU was 9-8 (4-3 ), meanwhile the squad had a dominating 12-6 (10-3) record to end its season.
When asked to summarize the season Edwards said, “It took awhile for us to click. The Regional tournament at Washburn was the peak of our season. I felt we played the best in October. One of our goals was to end on a high note and we did.”
“This year was a good learning experience,” exclaimed Johnson. “It was a good year to grow from all the success we had this season.”
The turning point for ACU was when the girls upset then No. 25 Emporia State University in the Washburn Regional Crossover tournament 3-2.
Exactly one month later, the Wildcats defeated No. 16 Angelo State in front of a home crowd 3-2.
“That win (against ASU) was what propelled us into the regional tournament,” Johnson said. “To beat that good of a team in front of our fans was fun.”
Jennie Hutt was the team leader in terms of total kills with a staggering 518. She averaged over 3.78 kills per set. Edwards finished third in the LSC in digs with 696. Neely Borger was first on the team in blocks averaging 1.01 per set (138 total).
Haley Rhoads and Johnson combined for over 1,503 assists on the year. Rhoads had 1,132 while Johnson recorded 371.
The ‘Cats will be losing three seniors from this year’s relatively young team. Hutt, Aubree Vick, and Edwards all contributed major roles in reaching the playoffs. They led by example, putting forth enormous effort, determination, and encouragement when the club needed it most.
Johnson said of the seniors, “All three seniors were great leaders on and off the court. They stepped up and helped the younger players on numerous occasions.”