The old adage “it’s hard to beat a team three times” rang true on Thursday night. After sweeping the season series against Taylor, Grace’s volleyball team fell in five sets to the Trojans in the Crossroads League Tournament semifinals.
The Lady Lancers (26-10) served twice with a chance to win the match in the fourth set, but the Trojans (26-12) showed resolve with a come-from-behind victory.
Grace’s seniors shined in the semifinal defeat. Setter Ellie Harp was dynamic for Grace, producing a rare triple-double with 54 assists, 11 digs and 10 kills, outside hitter Calah Kruse blasted out 18 kills and 23 digs, and libero Hannah Clemmons tallied 20 digs.
With the loss, Grace will turn its attention to qualifying for the NCCAA National Championships in Kissimmee, Fla. The regional tournament opponents and pairings will be announced in the coming days.
Grace got off to a fast start in the opening set while playing in front of a charged home crowd. Freshman Sierra Smith pounded out a few timely kills to help Grace broke open a 13-13 lead. Taylor never recovered, and Kaitlin Kerrigan scored the last two points for Grace en route to a 25-20 victory.
The Trojans countered with a 25-15 victory in the second set, rattling off 13 kills on just two errors.
Grace forced Taylor into an early timeout in the third set, leading 12-9. The Trojans were unable to slow Grace’s momentum as the Lady Lancers scored seven more points in a row. Kerrigan and Grace Woolsey combined for a block point at the end as Grace was on the brink of victory with a 25-17 win.
The fourth set seemed headed Grace’s way down the stretch. At one point Taylor was on top 17-13, but Grace rallied ahead 23-20 thanks to superlative defensive plays from Clemmons and Sara Miller. Taylor knotted the score at 23-23, but Grace went on to serve two match points at 24-23 and 25-24. The Trojans came away with clutch plays down the stretch to steal a 27-25 victory.
Taylor continued its momentum in the tiebreaker and led from start to finish. Grace cut Taylor’s lead to three on a number of occasions, but they could not punch through the Trojans’ cushion and fell 15-11.
Kerrigan had 15 kills and 14 digs for Grace, Smith had 12 kills and three block assists, and Tori Bontrager added eight kills and five block assists.