Morningside swept Tabor 25-22, 25-13, 25-20 in Thursday’s pool play finale in the NAIA Volleyball National Championship at Sioux City’s Tyson Events Center/Gateway Arena.
The Mustangs, who swept ninth-ranked Columbia 3-0 and lost 3-1 against No. 8 Grand View earlier in the tournament, went 2-1 in pool play for their best showing ever counting their five previous national tournament appearances. The Mustangs finished second in their pool to advance into the single-elimination tournament bracket slated for Friday and Saturday. The Mustangs will face seventh-ranked Park at 1:30 p.m. on Friday.
Morningside, which improved its record to 20-12, dominate the net against Tabor. The Mustangs slammed 40 kills on their way to a .240 hitting percentage, while eight Morningside blocks helped limit the Blue Jays to a dismal .073 hitting rate.
Brittni Olson was the big hitter in the Mustangs’ attack with 10 kills and no errors in 25 attack attempts en route to a .400 hitting percentage. Krista Zenk just missed double figures with nine kills and a .318 hitting percentage, followed by Emma Gerber with eight kills and a .389 hitting percentage and Jenn Buyert with seven kills. The seven kills by Buyert raised put her over the 1000-kill milestone with 1002 career terminations, making her the 16th player in Morningside history to accomplish the feat.
Nikki Oberfoell led the Mustangs’ defensive court coverage with a match-high 19 digs and was joined in double figures by Callie Alberico with 13 digs and Jayde Bergmann with 12. Aside from her 19 digs, Oberfoell also topped all performers with two ace serves.
Alberico dealt a match-high 31 assists.
Gerber led the Mustangs’ front row defense with five block assists.
Three kills by Olson and a kill by Buyert staked the Mustangs to an early 5-2 advantage in the first set. The Mustangs doubled the Blue Jays score when a solo block by Buyert put them up 10-5. Tabor rallied with a 13-5 run and took its first lead when a kill by Sydney Peitz put the Blue Jays up 21-20. Morningside outscored Tabor 5-1 down the stretch to win the set, scoring the set winner on an attack error by the Blue Jays.
The Mustangs’ blocking ability took its toll when Morningside routed Tabor 25-13 in a second set where the Blue Jays had a negative .114 hitting percentage. The Mustangs took the lead for good, 6-5, on a kill from Olson out of the middle. Leading 11-8, the Mustangs reeled off five straight points to break the set open. The run featured a kill from Zenk, an ace serve by Bergmann and a block from the tandem of Gerber and Alberico. Olson had kills to account for the Mustangs’ 21st and 22nd points of the set before Zenk eventually slammed home the set winner.
Morningside fell behind 4-1 to start the third set, but made a quick come back and tied the score at five on a block by Gerber and Zenk and went ahead 6-5 on a kill by Gerber. Tabor tied the score at 12 on a kill by Kim Hockley and used a kill by Brooke Holloway and an ace serve by Keeley Kroeker to take a 15-13 lead. The Mustangs answered with a four-point run that featured two kills from Zenk and a tandem block from Olson and Ashley Vande Stouwe to take the lead for good at 17-15. Buyert stung the Blue Jays with a four-kill flurry that made it 24-20 before the Mustangs finished things off with block assists from Bergmann and Olson for the match winner.