SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Union College displayed a tenacious fight but was unable to get over the preverbal hump as No. 14 Missouri Baptist notched a 3-0 victory Wednesday in the second match of pool play at the NAIA Volleyball National Championship.
"We really came out and battled today. We showed we belong in this tournament today with our play back closer to our normal standards," said Union coach Jeremy Wise. "With a little more time to scout our opponent and getting all the nerves and newness out of our system yesterday, we should continue to improve at this tournament."
The week-long tournament is being held at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
The Spartans (29-9 overall) picked up the 28-26, 25-22, 25-19 win to improve to 1-1 in pool play.
Union (33-11 overall) is 0-2 in pool play; however, the team's national title aspirations are not gone. Should Union defeat Jamestown (N.D.) and Hastings (Neb.) beat Missouri Baptist on Thursday, it will create a three-way tie for second spot in Pool C between Union, Missouri Baptist and Jamestown. If the scenario rings true, the three teams will have to play one another in one-set showdowns to determine who will advance.
Against Missouri Baptist, Union had a balanced attack with Jenna Nelson (JR/Florence, Ky. ), Elle Barnett (JR/Lexington, Ky.) and Julia Edmonds (SR/Burlington, Ky.) leading the way with seven kills apiece. Marissa Elam (JR/Muncie, Ind.) and Rachel Andrews (JR/Louisville, Ky. ) followed with six kills each, and Maddie Jergesen (FR/Carson City, Nev.) helped out with five.
Union stood toe-to-toe with Missouri Baptist in the opening set but could not steal the win. The teams traded points with neither getting much of an advantage until a 5-0 spurt gave the Spartans a 14-10 lead. The Bulldogs responded with a 6-1 run of their own to grab a 16-15 edge. Missouri Baptist countered with a 4-0 rally for a 19-16 lead, yet Union battled back.
The Bulldogs clawed their way back in the set, tying the score at 21-all. Union fought off set point three times with kills from Jergesen, Andrews and Edmonds to even the score at 24-all, 25-all and 26-all. However, kills from Natalie Gremaud and Kristina Medanovic gave the Spartans the 28-26 set win.
Missouri Baptist came out hot in set two, racing to an early 7-2 lead. Union battled back but was unable to tie or take the lead. The Bulldogs cut the margin to one on three occasions with the last one coming after a Spartan attack error to make it 21-20. Union tried to surge back, but a Mallory Dillon kill locked up the 25-22 set win for Missouri Baptist.
In the final set, Missouri Baptist used a 12-5 stretch to turn a one-point lead into an 18-10 cushion. Union showed its moxie and got back within five following a Nelson kill to make it 23-18. Nelson delivered another kill to stave off match point at 24-19, yet Dillon registered her 17th kill of the match to finish off the 25-19 set win and 3-0 match victory.
"Either of the first two sets could have gone to either team," Wise noted. "Their experience and better starts were our downfall today, but tomorrow, we will now have experience of our own in our back pocket."
After Dillon, Medanovic led the Spartans with 13 kills.
Ivana Kazic (SR/Belgrade, Serbia) and Carson Gray (SO/Alexandria, Ky.) recorded 18 and 17 assists, respectively for Union, while Paulina Hileman (JR/Johnstown, Colo.) logged 19 digs. In addition to her seven kills, Edmonds boasted four total blocks to give her a career-best 134 this season.
Union will face No. 19 Jamestown at 10 a.m. ET/9 a.m. CT Thursday.