Morningside bowed out of the NAIA Volleyball National Championship after it dropped a 27-29, 25-22, 25-15, 25-17 verdict to 23rd-ranked Corban University in Thursday’s pool play finale.
The Mustangs, who needed a victory in order to advance to the 16-team single-elimination tournament bracket, went 1-2 in their pool to finish the season with a record of 20-15.
Morningside, which was making its first national tournament appearance since 2012, was one of the most improved teams in the nation this season following an 8-20 finish in 2015.
The Mustangs made their best showing against Corban when they attacked at an impressive .388 clip to take the first set 29-27. Jenn Buyert slammed eight kills, including the Mustangs’ 28th and 29th points, and Brittni Olson also had a big opening set with seven kills out of 10 attempts for a .700 hitting percentage.
Two kills each by Buyert and Ashley Vande Stouwe along with a kill by Emma Gerber and an ace serve by Jayde Bergmann helped stake the Mustangs to an early 9-5 lead in the second set. However, Corban tied the score at 14-14 to start a pivotal six-point scoring run that led to a 25-22 triumph to tie up the match.
Morningside attacked at just a .079 clip when Corban won the third set 25-15.
One point separated the two teams for most of the third set and the Mustangs trailed only 16-15 after a kill by Olson before the Warriors reeled off seven straight points to break the contest open.
Amber Parker, a returning third-team NAIA All-American, pounded a match-high 24 kills at the Mustangs and had only three errors in 59 attack attempts to finish with a .356 hitting percentage. The Warriors also received huge performances from Alaina Gentili, who had 17 kills and a .552 hitting percentage, and Marandah Boeder with 16 kills and a .375 attack rate.
Buyert paced the Mustangs’ attack with 19 kills to match her high effort of the season. Olson was next with 15 kills and only one error in 32 attack attempts for a .438 hitting percentage, followed by Bergmann with 10 kills and a .304 hitting percentage. Bergmann had the Mustangs’ only ace serve of the contest.
Mustang setter Callie Alberico dealt 48 assists to go along with a team-high 15 digs. Nikki Oberfoell was next with 12 digs, while Jessica Becker and Katie Kuck each had 11.
Vande Stowe had six block assists to lead the Mustangs’ defensive effort at the net.