HUTCHINSON – Trailing 10-6, things were not looking good for the Kansas Wesleyan Women’s Volleyball team in Saturday’s decisive fifth set against Saint Mary in the KCAC Championship match.
But the Coyotes found a way.
Wesleyan rallied from the four-point deficit, and would score the final four points of the set to win 15-12 and claim the KCAC Tournament Championship at the Hutchinson Sports Arena.
The win was the first KCAC Tournament title for the Coyotes since 2014.
“We got a big block from Libby (Elizabeth Hardacre (SR/Kensington, Kan.)), and it changed the momentum and we gained our confidence, because we had nothing to lose at that point,” Wesleyan head coach Jessica Biegert said of Wesleyan’s rally in the fifth. “We came together, got things going and finished it together.”
Hardacre’s block got the Coyotes within two points at 8-6, but Saint Mary got the next two to take a 10-6 lead and force a timeout. Senior Morgan Bryand (SR/Wichita, Kan.) put down a kill to get the Coyotes headed in the right direction, followed by a kill by freshman Rylee Serpan (FR/Spring Hill, Kan.).
Saint Mary took an 11-9 lead before another kill by Serpan and a service ace by Melinna Schumann (SO/Sabetha, Kan.) evened the set at 11-11. Another Serpan kill tied it at 12 and sparked the rally to end it capped by the block by Hardacre and Maddy Beckett (SR/Halstead, Kan.).
Serpan and Bryand led the Coyotes with 19 kills each, and were pivotal down the stretch.
“They were definitely our go-to players during the match,” Biegert said. “Rylee got the ball down when we were behind, and Morgan was hitting her shots, and when she got a big opening she made a dominating play and helped us finish it.”
The Coyotes had nine total team blocks as the front row defense came through especially when needed.
Hardacre finished with five blocks (1 solo, 4 assists), and Alexis Utz (JR/Kansas City, Mo.) had four (1 solo, 3 assists).
“Blocks are a huge momentum changer and we got them when we needed them,” Biegert said.
The first set was a one-point margin when Saint Mary scored five in a row to take a 21-15 lead and took the opener 25-19.
It was a late rally for the Coyotes in the second set to get the win. Saint Mary led 21-18 when the Coyotes got things going. A kill by Utz started the rally for the Coyotes who tied it on a Saint Mary error at 21-all and continued the run of seven straight points to end it on a block by Utz and Serpan.
Saint Mary controlled the third set winning 25-12.
In the fourth set it was Wesleyan’s turn. The Coyotes tied it 6-6 as part of a 7-0 run to take an 11-6 lead on Serpan’s kill. The Coyotes never would give up the lead despite Saint Mary getting within a point at 20-19. The Coyotes would get set point on a kill by Beckett and force the fifth on a Saint Mary error.
A kill by Beckett gave the Coyotes a 4-2 lead in the final set, but Saint Mary tied it 4-4 before another Beckett kill gave the Coyotes the lead. USM tied it again and ran its lead out to 8-5 when the rally started for the Coyotes.
Wesleyan hit .235 for the match with 59 total kills. Hardacre added nine and Beckett seven to the Coyote totals. Josie Deckinger (JR/Wichita, Kan.) had 41 assists and 13 digs in the match and was in on a couple block assists. Kelcey Hund (JR/Leavenworth, Kan.) had 16 digs to lead the Coyotes, while Beckett had 11.
Wesleyan will make its first NAIA Opening Round appearance since 2014 when KWU won the KCAC tournament that season.
KWU officials will hold a NAIA Opening Round Selection Show watch party on Monday morning at 10 a.m. in the Student Activities Center to find out where the Coyotes are headed for their Opening Round match up.