GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The 13th-ranked Mount Union Volleyball team pushed no. 1 Calvin (Mich.) to the brink of elimination on Friday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament but ultimately fell in five sets to the Knights (25-12, 23-25, 25-21, 24-26, 15-6).
Calvin got off to a fast 8-3 start in the first set, utilizing its tall front line to put together stellar attacks and block Mount Union's offensive efforts. The Knights extended their lead to 14-4 after a kill by Emily Crowe. A Maggie Kamp kill then gave Calvin its seventh straight point and a 15-4 lead. However a Rebecca Ratkov service error stopped the Calvin run.
Calvin would extend its lead to 13 (19-5), but moments later, Mount Union's Nicole Snyder (Mentor/Lake Catholic) recorded her first kill of the evening, Taylor Webb (Geneva/Geneva) picked up her third kill of the set and two consecutive attack errors by Calvin resulted in four points for Mount Union to make it a 19-9 game. Kristen Kayser (Oregon/Clay) posted a kill on the ensuing point to bring the Raiders within nine.
But Mount Union could not pull any closer and the Knights grabbed a 1-0 lead in the match with a 25-12 first-set win.
Mount Union and Calvin played even through the first six points of the second set (3-3). Webb picked up another kill for the Raiders in those six points. With the Knights leading 5-3, Dee Glass (Medina/Medina) posted her second kill of the match and Sarah Schleich (Westfield Center/Cloverleaf) recorded a service ace to knot the score at five. Then, with Calvin up 6-5, Mary Tout (North Royalton/North Royalton) got in on the action and tallied her first kill to level the match at six.
The back-and-forth set continue over the next several minutes. Tied at 10, Calvin rattled off three straight points before Snyder and Webb registered back-to-back kills to bring the Raiders within one (13-12).
Down 16-15, Mount Union rallied to score consecutive points thanks to two-straight Calvin errors to take a 17-16 advantage and force a timeout by the Knights. Kara Berger (Medina/Medina) then put the Raiders up 18-16 with a kill. Two Snyder kills later gave Mount Union a 21-20 lead.
Leading 22-21, Mount Union's Berger and Tout picked up a crucial block to extend the lead to two (23-21). But after a Calvin timeout, the Knights posted back-to-back kills to level the set once again.
However, a clutch kill by Tout and a service ace by senior Kristen Gromes (Navarre/Fairless) gave Mount Union the set (25-23) to level the match, 1-1.
In the third, Mount Union got off to a 6-3 start after another Webb kill. But Calvin battled back, winning the next three points before the Raiders reclaimed the lead (7-6) after a service error. The Knights would then win five out of the next six points to take an 11-8 lead and force a Mount Union timeout.
The two teams played evenly over the next several points. Down 17-15, Mount Union drew within one after a Calvin attack error. Glass and Webb registered a block to knot the score at 17 on the ensuing point. Then, Kamp missed a kill and the Raiders went up 18-17.
But the Knights regained their composure, took the next three points and eventually a 23-20 lead. After a Mount Union timeout, Calvin won two-of-three to take the set, 25-21, and a 2-1 lead in the match.
The two teams split the first 16 points of the fourth set before Calvin took a 10-8 lead after a Kamp kill. The Knights would extend their lead to four (13-9) just a few points later.
Mount Union buckled down, however, and won four-of-six to close to within two (15-13). Tout and Schleich posted a kill and service ace, respectively, during the rally. The Raiders drew even (15-15) just two points later. With the score tied at 18, Mount Union won the next two points, courtesy of a Calvin attack error and a Mel Patterson (Mentor/Lake Catholic) kill to take a 20-18 advantage.
With the set tied at 24 in front of a raucous, pro-Calvin crowd, Webb delivered back-to-back kills to force a decisive fifth set.
The Knights hit their stride in the early parts of the fifth set. After a Ratkov kill, Calvin led 5-2. Glass and Webb responded with a block to cut the deficit to two on the next play, however. Moments later, the two teams exchanged three-straight service errors and Calvin took a 9-6 lead. Kamp posted a kill on the ensuing point to extend the Knights' lead to four (10-6). The Knights would win the next five points to close out the match, 15-6.
Kamp finished with an astounding 29 kills for Calvin.
Snyder led Mount Union with 10 kills and Webb followed with nine. Patterson, Glass and Tout picked up seven kills each. Gromes had 24 digs in her Mount Union finale. Shleich posted 24 assists and Kayser tacked on 17.
For the top-ranked Knights, it was their 30th win of the season. They are 30-2 overall and will play Wittenberg in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen tomorrow night in Grand Rapids, Mich. Mount Union closes out the season at 27-7.
The 2012 Purple Raiders were just the third team to advance to the NCAA Tournament in school history. In addition, they won the school's first regular season Ohio Athletic Conference championship and advanced to the OAC Tournament title match for the second-straight year.