Wildcats take Golden Bears to limit in five-set loss

Wayne State College battled No. 1 Concordia-St. Paul in a five-set marathon Wednesday before the host Golden Bears finished with a 18-25, 25-13, 23-25, 25-20, 15-12 win over the 21st ranked Wildcats in the opening round of the NSIC Volleyball Tournament at the Gangelhoff Center in St. Paul, Minn.

The first set saw the Wildcats trail early, then pull away late to take the opening set. After Wayne State was down 8-6, the Wildcats scored seven of the next eight points to take the lead at 13-9. Concordia-St. Paul battled back to knot the set at 13-13, but WSC went on a 8-2 run to take the lead for good thanks to three straight blocks and a Maddie Duffy service ace to highlight the run.

Senior Erin Gross had a hot hand in the first set for the Wildcats with six kills on seven attacks while Jaci Brahmer and Katie Stephens each had three blocks.

The host Golden Bears stormed back in the second set and had 17 kills with a .500 attack percentage to even the match at 1-1, but Wayne State rebounded in the third set, never trailing while holding back a late charge by the Golden Bears to take a 2-1 lead.

Tied at 7-7, the Wildcats scored six of the next seven points for their biggest lead in the set at 13-8. Later in the set with Wayne State leading 21-18, the Golden Bears battled back and forced a 23-23 tie. But the Wildcats closed the set with a Concordia service error and kill from Tarrin Beller. Gross paced Wayne State with four kills in the set followed by Stephens and Brahmer with three apiece.

Wayne State took an early lead in the fourth set at 9-5 to force a Concordia-St. Paul timeout, but the Golden Bears used 20 kills in the set to slowly chip away at the lead and take the fourth set to force a fifth and deciding set.

The fifth set saw Concordia-St. Paul lead from start to finish, but Wayne State rallied within one at 12-11 before the Golden Bears scored the last four points to take the match.

The Wildcats trailed early 5-1 to take their first timeout. After getting within two at 9-7, the Golden Bears scored back-to-back points to force another Wayne State timeout, trailing 11-7.

The Wildcats made one last charge at Concordia-St. Paul scoring four of the next five points with the final three coming on consecutive kills from Stephens, Alyssa Ballenger and Gross to get within one at 12-11. However, the Golden Bears stopped the Wildcat run with back-to-back kills from Brooklyn Lewis and used a kill from Hope Schiller on match point to win 15-12.

Gross led Wayne State in hitting with 17 kills and four blocks while Stephens finished with 13 kills and 15 digs along with four blocks. Megan Gebhardt produced 46 set assists with 17 digs while libero Haley Kauth was credited with a team-best 19 digs. Brahmer notched a team-best five blocks.

Wayne State ends the year with a 19-12 record while Concordia-St. Paul will host the semifinals and finals of the NSIC Tournament this weekend while advancing with a 27-2 mark.

The Wayne Herald

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