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Grace Spikers Claim the 2023 NCCAA Crown

Grace’s volleyball team completed a week to remember on Saturday.

The Lancers defeated Mid-America Christian University 3-1 on the campus of the College of the Ozarks, winning the 2023 NCCAA national championship.

Grace only dropped two sets across five matches in the NCCAA National Championships, finishing the season with a 24-11 record under head coach Katie Hill.

The Lancers claimed the 18th national championship in school history; it’s the second volleyball national title after the Lancers won the NCCAA crown in 1995.

Alisha Leffring and Katie Swanson were named to the NCCAA All-Tournament Team after their strong play this week.

Jadyn Ross (11 kills, 18 digs) and Morgan Syoen (27 assists, 12 digs) posted crucial double-doubles as well in Grace’s gritty victory.

Grace’s offense was dominant in the match, finishing with 57 kills on a .217 percentage. The Evangels (25-13), conversely, had 48 kills on a .129 percentage.

The first set saw MACU take a slight early edge; the Evangels led 16-12 as Grace called a timeout.

Grace’s offense got hot then, scoring four straight points with two coming from Swanson.

The Lancers’ attack continued to sizzle as the set reached its end. Grace pounded out four more kills over the final six rallies, including two kills from Ross. Ross’s last kill lifted Grace to a 25-20 win.

The Lancers amassed an incredible 20 kills on just two errors in the set (.439 percentage).

MACU grabbed another early lead in the second set at 8-3. Before long, the Evangels boosted their lead to 15-9.

Grace rallied, however. Livia Tate and Swanson blocked back-to-back attacks, and Grace used an 8-2 run to level the score at 19-19.

But the Evangels executed late, winning four of the final five points to secure a 25-22 victory.

MACU looked to have momentum squarely on their side in the pivotal third set. The Evangels scored four of the first five points and pulled in front 12-4.

Not long after, Grace found itself in an 18-11 hole and at the risk of falling behind in the match.

But the Lancers made a match-defining run to seize control. Sahara Bee and Tate had two quick block points, and Emma Blackford aced.

A few plays later, Grace unleashed eight straight points to further stun MACU. Tate and Swanson registered two more block points, and Ross had two more kills.

The set ended with a block from Tate and Swanson as Grace won 25-21. Overall, Grace ended the third set on a 14-3 run.

The Evangels continued their trend of leading early, claiming an 8-5 edge to begin the fourth set. But Grace quickly countered with a 7-0 spurt to go in front for good. Blackford served another ace during the run, and Bee pounded out two kills.

Kills down the stretch from Cassadi Colbert, Ross and Bee put Grace on the brink of winning.

The championship point was clinched by a kill from Tate as Grace won 25-20, sending the Lancers spilling onto the court in euphoric celebration.

Leffring tallied 13 kills, 1 solo block, 2 block assists and 3 digs, and Swanson produced 11 kills, 0 attack errors (.500 percentage), 6 block assists and 3 digs.

Tate amassed nine block assists with five kills, Colbert had eight kills with four digs, and Bee added 6 kills, 1 solo block and 4 block assists.

Blackford served up three aces with four digs, Syoen had 27 assists, 12 digs and 3 kills, and Riley Owens had 15 assists, 5 digs and 1 ace.

Liz Schmidt finished with a team-high 19 digs, and McKenzie Stakely totaled 13 digs.

Grace’s 24 wins are the most since 2014.

The Lancers have a bright future, returning the majority of their squad for next season.

Tagged With: Athletics