Grace Ends Year Strong at NCCAA Nationals

Celebrating a kill from Sierra Smith on Friday, (L-R) Lady Lancers Sara Miller, Kelsee Zuidema, Alexa Hill, Marta Bleed and Sierra Smith

 

Grace’s volleyball team wrapped up its 2017 season on a high note on Friday.

Despite not advancing past pool play, the Lady Lancers put together two strong performances at the NCCAA National Championships. Grace lost narrowly to No. 1 Biola before sweeping No. 5 McMurry at the Kissimmee Civic Center.

In the opener, Grace put up a memorable fight against top-seeded Biola. The Lady Lancers were on the verge of forcing a fifth set against the NCAA Div. II opponent before losing 3-1.

Grace’s offense sputtered in the opening set, committing nine errors with seven kills in a 25-14 defeat.

The Lady Lancers bounced back with a definitive 25-17 win in the second set. Biola called both timeouts early, the first after a thunderous kill from Tori Bontrager and the second after Grace pulled ahead by five.

In the third set, Grace caught fire midway into the set. The Lady Lancers went on a 9-0 run thanks to two aces from Caylie Teel and a kill and a block assist from both Kelsee Zuidema and Kari Feddema.

Biola erased a three-point lead by Grace with a 6-2 run and snuck away with a 25-22 win to take the lead in the match.

Grace refused to back down from Biola in the fourth and seemed determined to force a tiebreaker. The Lady Lancers scored four of the first five rallies and forced an early Biola timeout with a 9-6 lead.

Biola called another timeout after an ace by Zuidema put the Lady Lancers ahead 16-11.

Alexa Hill pounded out a kill late in the set to give Grace a 23-18 lead, but Biola rallied.

The Eagles (25-7) held off three set points to tie the score at 24-24. The teams traded points down the stretch with a Sierra Smith kill holding off one match point, but Biola ended the match 28-26 on a kill and an ace.

Bontrager had 10 kills on a .444 percentage to go along with three block assists, and Zuidema added nine kills and five block assists.

Feddema tallied eight kills and three block assists, and Marta Bleed and Smith had seven kills apiece. Miller’s 25 digs were a team-high, and Teel (13 digs) and Gina Novotny (11 digs) reached double figures in digs.

Grace was dominant in the season finale against McMurry. Despite knowing they could not advance to the semifinal round, the Lady Lancers completed a thorough beatdown of the War Hawks (23-10) to end the season on a high note.

Grace hit 48 kills on a .279 percentage thanks to 35 assists from Hill. Zuidema’s 15 kills and Smith’s 11 kills led Grace’s hard-hitting attack.

In the opening set, Grace used a 7-1 run at the end of the game to win 25-17.

The second set was similar. The Lady Lancers strung together nine straight points at the latter stages to ease away for an eight-point win.

Grace was in control throughout the third set as an ace from Naarah Foster provided a 24-19 lead. McMurry rallied to within one point of Grace’s lead, but Hill made the winning play with a kill on the last rally.

Bontrager had five kills and three block assists, and Miller and Novotny each tallied a match-high 14 digs. Feddema had eight kills, and Bleed added six kills.

Friday officially wraps up the careers of graduating seniors Miller, Smith, Feddema, Hart, Naarah Foster and Bontrager. The senior class reached two NCCAA tournaments and won 86 matches.

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