“I think a lot of times teams spend several years trying to get past that first round,” coach Amy Ratzlaff said. “I just couldn’t be more pleased with these girls, to go in there and expect (to) win. We have just as much right to win as anybody else.
“I think they were highly motivated they could be the first volleyball team to go to nationals. That was something that they had been fighting for, and to be able to represent the KCAC in the national championship. I think a lot of those things came into play, but above all, I would say this team’s chemistry is second to none. I think they wanted to do it for each other.”
The teams were familiar opponents; Tabor defeated the Pioneers in three sets in early September.
This time, Wayland Baptist claimed momentum at the start by earning a Set 1 victory, 27-25. The Bluejays led by as many as six, 18-12, but the Pioneers used a 6-0 run to tie the game. It was a back-and-forth battle the rest of the way.
“We were pretty frustrated that first set,” Ratzlaff said. “There were a few things that happened in that set that took the wind out of our sails. I don’t think we should’ve lost, and so then when that happened, we really started flat the second set.”
Tabor tied the match by winning Set 2, 27-25, but trailed 8-4 early. Wayland Baptist led by as many as five, 12-7, and built a 23-20 advantage late in the set. Tabor benefitted from four Pioneer attack errors after that to jump in front, 24-23. Amy Horner and Tena Loewen recorded kills after that, and a Pioneer error sealed Tabor’s win.
The Bluejays won Set 3, 25-23. Tabor turned an 18-13 deficit into a 23-21 lead thanks to kills by Kendra Kroeker, Loewen, Miranda Leibold, Horner and Sydney Peitz, and four Pioneer errors. A kill by Horner polished the win.
“They just finally started to play together,” Ratzlaff said. “I don’t feel like we played our best match that we’ve played all season, but they played together and they played hard, and it just shows a lot of fight.
“Good things can’t happen unless you fight for them, and they did that and then things kept falling our way.”
Tabor recorded its best hitting percentage (.250) in Set 4 and won, 25-20.
Leading 11-10, Tabor gained distance with a 7-2 run to enjoy its largest margin of the set, 18-12. Peitz, Kroeker, Horner, Loewen and Leibold recorded kills after that, and Tabor won with a Loewen kill.
“To the girls’ credit, the whole night long they just would not let up,” Ratzlaff said. “It didn’t matter what the score was, they were just playing hard. We were kind of underdogs the whole time. We were always just a little bit behind and then we’d have to battle back, up until the fourth set. I think that that was my favorite part is the never-give-up attitude.”
Loewen led the attack with a match-high 21 kills. Horner added 17. Megan Voth had 29 assists. Keeley Kroeker had 22 assists. Ali Jost had 25 digs. Loewen and Horner each added 15 digs.
Coming—With the win, Tabor will be one of 32 teams to compete in pool play in Sioux City, Iowa, beginning Nov. 29.
Tabor will compete in Pool D, and will face Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29, MidAmerica Nazarene at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30, and Biola (Calif.) at 9 a.m. Friday, Dec. 1.
The top two teams in each pool will qualify for single elimination competition to begin Dec. 2.