OTTAWA, Kan. – The Indiana University Kokomo volleyball team took on the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference champions, Ottawa University in the opening round of the NAIA National Tournament.
Head Coach Heather Hayes said after the win, "To be honest, I am a bit speechless. This moment seems a bit surreal. I am beyond proud of this team. They find a way to fight even when their back is against the wall. We did a great job of maintaining our composure and focusing one play at a time during intense moments of the match."
The Cougars rallied back and fourth with the Braves, capturing the second and fourth sets before securing the fifth set for the win. IU Kokomo won the battle at the net out-hitting and out-blocking the Braves. Additionally, the back row defense was clutch in the win.
Set one did not see IU Kokomo pull ahead, despite a trio of kills from Keeana Walton and four assists from both Mary Westover and Casey Colgate. The set ended 25-19 in favor of Ottawa.
IU Kokomo came to life in the second set with an early lead and never looked back, winning 25-19. Elyse Younger tallied the first kill with an assist from Colgate, followed by block assists by Lindi Thomas and Walton to put them up, 2-0. Younger, Nicole Sandman and Thomas put up three kills apiece. Colgate led in assists with six and Westover finished second on the team with five.
In the third set, Thomas's six kills and Colgate's six assists led the Cougar offense but it was not enough as the Braves took the set, 25-16.
The Cougars dominated set four to push the game to the fifth and decisive set, with help from a strong performance in serving. Maddison Taylor, Kaleigh Ensley and Colgate also contributed to the set win with a pair of service aces each to take the set 25-12.
The defense was a dominant force in the fifth set. Younger led the Cougar defense with five block assists while Walton and Sandman each contributed three and Alexis Brickner added one.
"We defended the ball well and blocked really well down the stretch. We mixed up our shots offensively. It was a defining moment for our program," Coach Hayes exclaimed post-game.
With the win the Cougars continue to make history as they advance to the Second Round of the NAIA National Tournament when they travel to Sioux City, Iowa and will open pool play on Tuesday, November 29th.