Mac spikers pull off upset, make tourney semis

By Steve Sell
November 09, 2016

BARTLESVILLE, Okla. — It was an historic night for the McPherson College volleyball program.

The Bulldogs, the No. 5 seed in the KCAC Postseason Tournament, went on the road Tuesday and avenged two regular-season losses to No. 4-seed Oklahoma Wesleyan by outlasting the Eagles in the maximum five sets, with the decider being 15-13.

The Bulldogs had to win the fourth set 25-22 to get to the 15-point final set. Mac had lost the first and third sets, but won the second and fourth.

Lexi Kite set a school record for kills in a match with 27 and also had 13 digs. The former kill record was 26, held by current Mac assistant coach Kiley Loesch.

Jessica Sanders had 11 kills. Morgan Little had a huge night with 25 assists and 10 digs, while Emily Warner was steady as she goes with 30 digs. Kaitlyn Heinis was right behind with 27.

The Bulldogs broke the school record for victories in a season as they are now 21-11 as they twice had won 20. A year ago Mac was 2-18 in the KCAC and 7-25 overall to finish dead last in the conference.

“The girls played with so much heart and they were so determined to win that we were able to pull it off,” said Mac first-year coach Jessica Cleveland, who continued to add to her resume in the race for KCAC Coach of the Year.

The Bulldogs will now play undefeated KCAC regular-season champion Ottawa at 1 p.m. Saturday in Ottawa. The Braves were 22-0 in conference play.

“Our game plan against OKW was to play like ourselves and take it one set at a time,” Cleveland said. “We didn't want to get caught in the things that they do well, but in the things that we do well.”

The Bulldogs will be the longest of long shots against Ottawa, but did take the Braves to five sets when the teams played at the Sport Center.

“I do believe that we are starting to peak at the right time.” Cleveland said. “We are a balanced team, so we feel strong enough to compete to the end. We haven't relied on one player to carry us through the season.”  

This turnaround season has been nothing short of remarkable.

“I have a strong group of 15 players that I inherited,” Cleveland said. “I feel very fortunate to get a group that had an internal fire to win and to prove the conference that we could compete. All they needed was a little bit of confidence.” 

Kansas Wesleyan and Tabor will meet in the other semi on Saturday in Salina, with the championship match at 7 p.m.