MNU ends volleyball team’s season in HAAC semifinal

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MNU ends volleyball team’s season in HAAC semifinal

Story by Sara

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In a scene similar to 2011, the Baker University volleyball team once again had the opportunity to end MidAmerica Nazarene University’s season Nov. 7 in the Heart of America Athletic Conference tournament.

Last season the Wildcats fell to the Pioneers in the tournament final, but their 2012 season was cut one game shorter as they lost in three sets in the HAAC semifinals on the Pioneers’ home court.

Throughout the opening set, Baker stood toe to toe with MNU as both teams were tied at 12 points apiece. The Wildcats would continue to hang within two, but MidAmerica Nazarene powered through a 4-0 run to put the Pioneers at set point. MNU would then grab the final point it needed to win the first set 25-20.

Prior to the match, senior Savannah Smith was seven points short of reaching the 1,000 career kill mark. She edged her way closer in the match opener, and during the second set she surpassed the milestone.

Head coach Kathy Allen said reaching this statistic is a difficult thing to do and the fact that Smith did so in three years “shows just how good she is.”

“She has been an absolute joy to coach,” Allen said. “She is a leader on the court and off the court, and truly one of the most highly skilled athletes I have ever coached.”

In the second set, the Wildcats’ first three points came off the swing of Smith, and her fourth kill would put her at 1,000.

As Smith tallied these kills, the Wildcats would find themselves in a deep hole.

Early in the set, MNU went on an 8-0 run to command a 13-3 lead. Junior outside hitter Linjun Ji, who downed 19 kills during the match, was a force at the net for the Pioneers and helped the team grab a 25-12 victory.

In the final set, Baker again held close and tied the score at 13-13. However, Ji continued to come through for the MNU and ended the Wildcats’ season with a 25-21 win.

In their final match as Wildcats, Smith and fellow senior Jana Boss led the team as they have throughout their careers.

Smith collected 12 kills and 9 digs and Boss dished out 28 assists. Smith finished with 1,005 career kills and Boss posted nearly 5,000 assists in her four-year term.

“I think the seniors had a really great season and that we are really going to miss them next year,” junior Crystal Simon said. “Hopefully we can find some more people to replace them.”

Boss, Smith and freshman Danielle French earned spots in the First Team All-Conference list. Junior Renata Dill was named to the second team and fellow junior Jasmyn Tuner earned an honorable mention nod.

French, who led the team with 166 blocks this season and was named HAAC Freshman of the Year, said although the Wildcats wish the season would have turned out differently, she is still happy with the overall result.

“I didn’t really know what to expect coming in, but it turned out to be really great,” French said. “I made a really good connection with everyone on the team, so I’m excited for next year.”