McPherson College’s volleyball team earlier this week finished a five-match gauntlet against the teams that had been ahead of it in the KCAC standings.
Starting with a narrow 3-2 loss to defending champion Ottawa (after winning the first two sets), Mac went 3-2 in this stretch — as tough of a run as any team has faced in the KCAC.
The Bulldogs then won for only the second time in 21 years against Tabor with a 3-0 blanking, but lost to Kansas Wesleyan 3-1. However, the team went on the road to hammer both upper-division schools Friends and Oklahoma Wesleyan by 3-0 counts to improve to 5-3 in the KCAC and 9-5 overall.
Second-year coach Jessica Cleveland’s team has a chance to really make a move in the standings. Its next four matches are against Bethel, Southwestern, Sterling and Bethany, all teams in the second division. Then comes a rematch with Saint Mary, a team it began KCAC play losing to, but that was in Leavenworth and the long bus ride often results in a team struggling. The rematch will be in Hutchinson Oct. 13 as part of the KCAC Challenge at the Sports Arena. Mac also plays York College that day before going up against Ottawa and Kansas Wesleyan the following day.
Cleveland has done a remarkable job in a short time since coming over from Hesston College. The Bulldogs were the worst team in the KCAC the year before she took over with a 7-25 record, but they remarkably went 21-12 in her first year (breaking the school record for victories) and then advanced to the Final Four of the KCAC Postseason Tournament.
Perhaps most impressive is the Bulldogs have just one senior, setter Morgan Little. KCAC Player of the Year candidate Lexi Kite is just a junior and she’s been putting up incredible numbers, making the rare volleyball double-double commonplace. And Cleveland has no qualms about putting freshmen into the fire, as first-year player Riley Bradbury already has been named a KCAC Player of the Week and Mady Woog has been playing beyond her freshman years. Sophomore Jamie Siess has been as steady as can be and another sophomore, Kaitlyn Heinis, has been a setting standout along with Little.
Juniors Leia Seiler, Devrie Sombres, and Rianne Richard, along with sophomore Bree Wallace, are other key Bulldogs as Cleveland has developed a nice rotation.
Because of their youth, the Bulldogs may be a year away from challenging for the KCAC championship, but they’re certainly going to have a big say in who wins it.