Although the Falcons have previously been successful in matches that have gone to the limit, the SPU volleyball team fell in the fifth set to the Northwest Nazarene Crusaders, who are ranked No. 12 in the nation.
This past Thursday in Royal Brougham Pavilion, despite the tough competition, the Falcons tested the nationally ranked and undefeated Crusaders.
Jumping to a commanding lead in the fifth set, the Crusaders controlled the deciding game from start to finish.
However, the Falcons did not let the ranking affect their play and made NNU earn their win.
SPU claimed the second set 25-19 and third set 25-22 while NNU won the first set 25-17, fourth set 25-19, fifth set 15-8, and ultimately the entire match.
“Thursday’s game against NNU was, in my opinion, the best game we have played this year,” said libero Sophie Kuehl. “We practiced hard all week, focusing just on our Thursday game, and it showed.”
Leading the Falcons were outside hitters Hannah Lautenbach and Gabby Oddo.
Lautenbach put up a double-double, etching 12 kills accompanied by a career-high 23 digs. Oddo also had 12 kills for the night.
Also, strong on the offensive line were middle blockers Shaun Crespi and Nicole Tchabanov each adding eight and six kills respectively.
Setter Symone Tran dished out a total of 36 assists for her teammates along with 22 digs. Libero Amanda Ganete was able to pass up 14 digs while outside hitter Mallie Donohoe had 13 digs.
Adding a strong defensive force at the net was Tchabanov, Crespi, and Lautenbach who each had 10, seven, and four blocks respectively.
It is no easy task to bring a nationally ranked team to the brink.
“We were able to take them to five because we focused on each point separately, as well as, had many plays that motivated us,” said Kuehl. “Also, the energy from our bench was amazing and really helped motivate the team.”
Coming off the close match with NNU, the Falcons were faced with another tough Greater Northwest Athletic Conference game.
This past Saturday, the Falcons welcomed Central Washington University Wildcats to Royal Brougham Pavilion.
In the first set of the game, the Falcons had a steady lead but lost in the final few points. After CWU took the first set, SPU came back with full force to claim the second match.
The Wildcats went on to claim both the third and fourth sets, winning the overall match.
For the night, the scores in Royal Brougham Pavilion were 23-25, 25-21, 23-25, and 17-25.
Oddo led the night with 15 kills. Teammates Crespi, outside hitter Colleen Hannigan, and Lautenbach also notched 10, nine and six kills each respectively.
Crespi had a strong hitting night with a .421 hitting percentage and only two errors.
On the defensive end, Tchabanov led with nine blocks, while teammates Ganete, Lautenbach, Tran, and Donohoe were able to pass up 25, 19, 17, and 14 digs each.
Tran additionally put out 45 assists for her teammates.
This is the eighth game in a row that Tran has posted a double-double, beating her seven in a row double-double streak she had last season.
Tran said, “Each game teaches us something different about ourselves … it is all part of the process of our development as a team.”
The Wildcats had a strong frontline defense at the net getting 15 points just off of blocks on Saturday.
This is not surprising from the top blocking team in the entire NCAA Division II.
“We were frustrated at our loss against NNU, so that made us prepare even harder for CWU. They are an awesome team.
You can see why CWU is at the top of our conference, but I think we outplayed them at times and really gave them a run for their money.
We had a lot of individual successes during that game, which become team successes,” said Kuehl.
The Falcons are now 9-7 and stand at No. 5 in the GNAC. Looking forward, the Falcons will be back on the court this coming Thursday against Simon Frasier University in Burnaby, B.C.