SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Union College's historic run added another chapter Thursday as it collected a 3-1 victory over No. 19-ranked Jamestown (N.D.) in the final match of pool play at the NAIA Volleyball National Championship.
The Bulldogs (34-11 overall) keep their national title hopes alive with the 13-25, 27-25, 25-22, 25-20 win. This marks the first time a member of the Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC) won a match at the national tournament final site.
With Hastings (Neb.) defeating Missouri Baptist 3-1, there is a three-way tie for the second spot in Pool C with Union, Jamestown and Missouri Baptist all finishing 1-2. To determine who advances to the 16-team, single-elimination tournament along with Hastings, a series of one-set matches will be played Thursday night after all eight pools complete play.
"We knew we had a chance to reek havoc in the pool with a win today and force a possible three-way tie for second," said Union coach Jeremy Wise. "That's what we needed to do to keep our hopes of advancing with tie-breakers to the Sweet 16. As long as we have a fighting chance, we will keep fighting."
Based on the tie-breakers to determine the seeding for the playoff sets, Union will face Jamestown at 10 p.m. CT at the earliest. The winner will then face Missouri Baptist for the right to advance to the single-elimination tournament.
Whichever team advances plays Lindsey Wilson (Ky.), the winner of Pool D, on Friday at 11:15 a.m. CT.
Against Jamestown, Union was strong at the net with 57 kills and nine total team blocks.
Senior Julia Edmonds (SR/Burlington, Ky.) recorded arguably her best match of the season with 11 kills and five total blocks, including three solo blocks. This marked only the second time this season she registered double-digit kills, having posted 12 against Bethel (Tenn.) on Sept. 10.
Although it collected the win, the match did not start off well for Union. The Bulldogs quickly jumped out to a 3-1 lead, but a 5-0 run for the Jimmies made it a 6-3 deficit for the Bulldogs. Union kept it close, but another 5-0 spurt gave Jamestown a 16-9 advantage midway through the frame. Up 19-12, the Jimmies closed out the set on a 6-1 run to take the 25-13 decision.
Not willing to go down without a fight, the Bulldogs came out strong in set two as they opened up a 16-11 lead. Jenna Nelson (JR/Florence, Ky. ) had two kills during an 8-3 stretch to help Union open up the five-point advantage. Jamestown battled back and nearly ended up take a 2-0 match lead. Down 23-21, the Jimmies reeled off three straight points for a 24-23 edge.
Union, though, staved off two set points before ending the frame on a 3-0 rally to claim the 27-25 set win. Elle Barnett (JR/Lexington, Ky.) hammered home the kill for the decisive 27th point, pulling the Bulldogs even in the match at 1-all.
Jamestown looked as if it was going to take control of the match as it built a 16-11 lead. However, the Bulldogs literally blocked the Jimmies' momentum with a 9-1 run to grab a 20-17 lead. During the run, Union recorded five blocks with Edmonds recording two solo blocks and two block assists.
The Jimmies tied the set at 20-all and 21-all, but the Bulldogs used a 4-1 run to win the set with a Nelson kill locking up the 25-22 outcome for a 2-1 match lead.
Smelling victory, Union raced out to an 11-3 lead in the fourth set and eventually led by as much as 14-5. While Jamestown chipped away at the margin, it never could get any closer than four as Union recorded the 25-20 set win and the 3-1 match victory.
"After we regained composure in the second set, we kept building momentum," Wise said. "I knew we just had to get over the hump and win that first set to release the pressure for us to start playing to our potential.
"I'm so excited for our program and for surviving to play some more volleyball with this team," added an excited Wise.
Like Edmonds, Marissa Elam (JR/Muncie, Ind.) delivered a team-high 11 kills with Rachel Andrews (JR/Louisville, Ky. ) chipping in 10 kills and four block assists. Barnett and Nelson were key players at the net as well with nine and eight kills, respectively.
Maggie McGraw (SO/Elkhorn, Wis.) came up big on the backline with four aces and 13 digs, and Paulina Hileman (JR/Johnstown, Colo.) notched a match-high 18 digs.
For Jamestown (26-14 overall), Morgan Hensch led the way with 11 kills with three others posting nine.
With the win, Union matched the program for victories in a season with 34, equaling the mark set by the 2007 squad that finished 34-15.