IRVING, Texas – The Southwestern University Pirates volleyball team put together lessons it learned all season to advance to the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) Championship match but fell one set short, falling to the top seed Colorado College Tigers in five (26-24, 22-25, 25-27, 26-24, 8-15).
Playing against the No. 4-ranked team in the country, Southwestern went shot-for-shot with Colorado College, taking three of the five sets into extra points.
If it was their last match, seniors Jamison Duck and Brandi Campos put together memorable performances in one of the most competitive matches of the season. Campos was everywhere on the court from her libero position, tracking down a match-high 28 digs and providing some offensive punch with three service aces; and Duck displayed her usual all-around game with a 12-kill, 26-dig double-double.
Both seniors, combined with the front row play of middles Haven Cathey (two assists blocks, one solo) and Ashley Whitlock (three solo blocks, one assisted), helped to hold the country's second most efficient offense well below its .273 hitting percentage average at .155 for the match.
The Pirates' defense was especially stingy in the first and fourth sets, limiting the Tigers to .067 and .091 hitting percentages in winning each set.
Unfortunately, in a competition decided by just a handful of points, the Pirates made a few more errors in crucial situations.
"This was one of the grittier and deeply emotional battles we have been in this season," Head Coach Don Flora said. "It was two quality teams going toe-to-toe. Sometimes, there's just that one little play that either goes your way or it doesn't."
For Southwestern, that moment may have come towards the end of the third set. In a back-and-forth set that tied four different times, the Pirates committed an attacking and service error after tying the match at 23-23, giving Colorado College's Margo Speathling and Isabelle A-Menzel an opportunity to close the set with back-to-back kills.
The Pirates recovered to take the fourth set, getting two late kills from Cathey and a clutch block from Whitlock to close out the set.
Unfortunately, Colorado College reeled off four consecutive points to start the fifth set and Southwestern never recovered, dropping the set 15-8 after committing five errors while Colorado College had nine kills and no errors.
Makenzie Mendez distributed the ball for 51 assists, setting up three different Pirates to finish in double-digit kills. Cathey led the team with 14 kills on a .273 hitting percentage. Lauren Crabtree had 12 kills on 43 attacks.
Colorado College had a balanced attack with four different players finishing with 10 or more kills led by Myca Steffey-Bean's 15 kills and four assisted blocks.
With the loss, the Pirates drop to 18-12 on the season while Colorado College improves to 31-2. Southwestern now waits for the NCAA selection committee to decide its fate, holding out hope for an at-large bid after a strong end to the season.
"There is a ton of pride for how much this powerful team of women has grown from day one to today," Flora said. "For that, they should be ever proud."