ALLIANCE, Ohio -- The 12th-ranked Otterbein Cardinals denied the 10th-ranked Mount Union volleyball team's quest for back-to-back Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament championships on Saturday afternoon in Alliance. Otterbein knocked off the Purple Raiders in four sets (18-25, 25-20, 25-22, 25-21).
For the Raiders, it was their first loss in exactly one month. It snapped their 11-game winning streak. However, because they won the OAC regular season and advanced to the OAC Tournament championship match, the Raiders received the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament next week.
The Raiders came out of the gate strong, winning the first set convincingly, 25-18. But the Cardinals battled back to win the second set by five and outlasted Mount Union in a hard-fought 25-22 third set to take a 2-1 advantage in the match. The third set was knotted at 20 at one point, but the Cardinals capitalized off of four consecutive unforced errors by Mount Union to take a 24-20 lead. Then, with her team leading 24-22, Otterbein's Annie Juenger finished off the set with a kill.
When Mount Union hopped out to a 5-1 lead in the fourth set, the match appeared to be destined for a dramatic fifth set. Sophomore Mel Patterson (Mentor/Lake Catholic) sparked the Mount Union run with two kills.
But Otterbein chipped away at the Raider lead.
Down 12-9, the Cardinals rattled off five straight points, highlighted by two Kristen Bennett kills, to take a 14-12 lead. Mount Union cut the Otterbein lead to the slimmest of margins three times after that point, including the 16-15 mark thanks to a Nicole Snyder (Mentor/Lake Catholic) kill.
However, Mount Union never did reclaim the lead.
Trailing 24-20, freshman Mary Tout (North Royalton/North Royalton) picked up a kill to bring her team within three but Bennett ended the match with a kill on the ensuing point.
For the Cardinals, their first-ever appearance in the OAC Tournament Championship turned into their first OAC Tournament title in school history. They improved to 26-7 overall, while Mount Union fell to 26-6.
Snyder led the Raider attack with 10 kills. Tout and Patterson followed with eight each. Snyder also paced the Raiders with 18 digs, while senior libero Kristen Gromes (Navarre/Fairless) added 16. Kristen Kayser (Oregon/Clay) topped the Mount Union assist category with 21, while Sarah Schleich followed with 20.
Otterbein denied the Mount Union attack 21 times, finishing the match with three solo blocks and 18 block assists. The Raiders had just four blocks at the net.
The Raiders now begin their run through the NCAA Tournament. They find out their NCAA Tournament fate on Monday (Nov. 5) at 11 a.m. The NCAA will stream a live broadcast of the Selection Show on NCAA.com.
Short Box Score (Match)
2012 Mount Union Volleyball
#12 Otterbein University vs #10 Mount Union (Nov 03, 2012 at Alliance, Ohio)
Otterbein University def. Mount Union 18-25,25-20,25-22,25-21
Otterbein University (26-7) (Kills-aces-blocks) - Annie Juenger
14-4-2; Kristen Bennett 14-0-7; Michelle Gernert 8-0-1; Tabatha Piper
5-1-1; Liz Palmer 3-0-5; Lauren Beitel 3-2-0; Kim Barker 3-2-5; Evelyn
Carus 0-1-0; Emily Caldwell 0-1-0; Totals 50-11-12.0. (Assists) -
Tabatha Piper 34. (Dig leaders) - Emily Caldwell 17; Tabatha Piper 17;
Annie Juenger 11; Lauren Beitel 10
Mount Union (26-6) (Kills-aces-blocks) - Nicole Snyder 10-0-0; Mel
Patterson 8-0-0; Mary Tout 8-0-2; Dee Glass 7-0-0; Taylor Webb 7-0-0;
Kara Berger 4-0-2; Kristen Kayser 2-3-0; Christine Frazier 1-0-0;
Sarah Schleich 0-2-0; Kristen Gromes 0-1-0; Totals 47-6-2.0. (Assists)
- Kristen Kayser 21; Sarah Schleich 20. (Dig leaders) - Nicole Snyder
18; Kristen Gromes 16; Mel Patterson 8; Christine Frazier 8
Site: Alliance, Ohio (The MAAC)
Date: Nov 03, 2012 Attend: 125 Time: 1:34
Referees: Al Herbert, Bob Baxter, Cathy Masin
Otterbein wins 2012 OAC Tournament Championship