The McPherson College volleyball team is on their way to Sioux Fall, Iowa after a come-from-behind victory over Texas Wesleyan University on Saturday.
The Lady Bulldogs was in a do-or-die mode at the Sports Center after losing to Ottawa in the KCAC Championship, which had them falling six spots in the national rankings after being ranked No.17.
"I feel like we proved the KCAC that we deserved to be here even though we lacked experience in going to nationals. That's a better feeling," Bulldogs' head coach Jessica Cleveland said after the game.
It was a shaky start for the Bulldogs in the first two sets. Both teams went back and forth with different lead changes, but the Rams took control and claimed both wins, 25-21 in set 1 and 26-24 in set 2.
Trailing 2-0, the Bulldogs huddled up. That's when their assistant coach Maggie Hans came out with an passionate speech before the start of the third set. After her speech, it looked as if it created a spark for McPherson for the rest of the match.
"That's what she does best. She always get on them in a good way, and she just lights the fire under the butt and makes them play hard," Cleveland said.
The Bulldogs' comeback came into effect in the third set when the Bulldogs put on a dominating performance with the 25-16 victory. McPherson topped that with a back-to-back win in set 4 25-22, and forcing a fifth set, where one team must put up 15 points to get the win.
The Bulldog fans in attendance wherein a frenzy, as they cheered their hearts out for their fellow Lady Bulldogs. They were so loud, it was hard for the players to even communicate with one another, but they fed through the energy.
"The crowd was insane. You couldn't even hear the player next to you. There are a few times we were calling balls, and we were talking, but the other person couldn't hear it," Lexi Kite said. "I don't know, the crowd was insane. It helped a lot."
As they reached the fifth set, the Bulldogs sealed the deal with the 15-11 victory. The players rushed down to the court and jumped onto a pile as they celebrate their come-from-behind victory.
Kite, who is the KCAC's Player of the Year, played lights out as she recorded a double-double in the entire 2-hour match with 17 kills and 24 digs. She played through all five sets without any substitutions.
"She definitely showed that she is player of the year in every game. She has consistent double-doubles in kills and digs," Cleveland said. "She has been our go-to-player for three years. What makes this year different is players has stepped up. She has done leading this team for all three years."
Riley Bradbury also had a strong performance as she also recorded a double-double with 14 kills and 25 digs. Jamie Siess tied with Bradbury with 25 digs, and Devrie Sombers recorded five aces.
McPherson is no stranger in playing under pressure. They thrived on it. With the record of 33-2, the Bulldogs are 8-0 in 5-set matches.
"I think it has everything to do with our team chemistry," Kite said. "Whenever we make an error, nobody gets down on ourselves. We're always super uplifting, helping moved on to the next point."
In five sets, it's only 15 points. You have to stay up, and not get down. Difference from last year to this year, for sure, is that when we were under pressure, the team is calm. We are never frazzled, and I feel like slow the game down and we do what we need to do."
With the win, the Bulldogs are one of the 32 remaining teams that will compete for nationals in Sioux Falls. Each team will be placed in eight pools of four, and the top two will advance in the round of 16. Then on, it's win or go home.
Contact Peter Holland Jr. by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Petes_Picks_orour sports page @MacCountySports