It was do-or-die time for McPherson College’s women’s volleyball team.
The Bulldogs chose to “do.”
Down 2-0 to Sooner Athletic Conference power Texas Wesleyan on Saturday at the Sport Center and with the end of their season staring them squarely in the face, the Bulldogs got off the deck behind a spirited home crowd and stunned the Rams by winning the final three sets to earn their first-ever trip to Sioux City, Iowa, site of the national field of 32.
The Bulldogs take a 33-2 record to nationals, which begin Nov. 27.
This match was actually considered as a national play-in game as the Top 19 teams, plus host Morningside College, were granted exemptions. KCAC member Ottawa University also won its play-in game to move into the field of 32.
“I feel like we proved to the KCAC that we deserved to be here even though we lacked experience of going to nationals,” Bulldog coach Jessica Cleveland said.
Oddly, the Bulldogs had entered last week’s KCAC Tournament ranked No. 17 in the country and a loss to Ottawa in the finals of the postseason tournament knocked them down six spots to No. 23 and elevated the Braves four spots to No. 20 even though Mac was 2-1 against OU on the season and had a far superior record. The Bulldogs used that snub as motivation as they were not going to be denied.
After two sets, though, the Bulldogs’ hopes looked slim. They let decent leads get away in both, as the Rams stormed back for 25-21, 26-24 wins.
“The first set we were up, what 5 or 6, and I think we just got too comfortable,” Cleveland said. “I don’t think we got tight, I think we got comfortable.”
After the second set, fiery assistant coach Maggie Hans spoke with the team and provided it with energy.
“That’s where assistant coach Maggie Hans comes in,” Cleveland said laughingly as her aide was quite demonstrative. “That’s what she does best. She’ll get on them in a good way and she just lights the fire under the butt and makes them play hard.”
“We’re never satisfied when Maggie’s around,” KCAC Player of the Year and team heartbeat Lexi Kite said. “She always makes sure to push us harder, even when we’re up 5 points we should be up 10 points.”
With renewed vigor, Mac started to swing the momentum in Set 3. It was dominant as it rolled to a 25-16 victory and followed that up with a 25-22 win to force the 15-point deciding set.
By the time Set 5 rolled around, Mac was in control and it finished off the Rams 15-11 to set off a wild celebration as the Sport Center had been packed with enthusiastic supporters.
Kite showed why she should be an All-American. She never came off the court in the emotionally exhausting 2-hour match and had 17 kills and 24 digs.
“She definitely shows out that she’s the Player of the Year in every game. She has consistent double-doubles in kills and digs,” Cleveland said. “She’s been our go-to player for the three years. What makes this year different is players have stepped up to help balance her out so we haven’t had to set her every single ball so it gives her a little more space and freedom to open up once we start setting the pin to the pin. She’s done a great job of leading this team all three years.”
"I never want to come out, I never feel like I need to come out,” said Kite, who will probably down as the best to ever play at Mac and a future Bulldog Hall of Famer. “I just hope I never have to come out.”
When Kite was a freshman, the Bulldogs were dead last in the KCAC at 2-18 and were just 7-25 overall. Cleveland, in fact, had to re-recruit her when she was hired as she’s now in her third year, breaking the school record for wins each year.
“Actually after my first year here, I didn’t want to play volleyball at all,” Kite said. “My Dad kept pushing me to play, so I looked at other schools in the KCAC. And then we found out we hired a new coach and I told myself to wait until I met her. And I think I talked to her on the phone and that was the first time where I was like, ‘you know what, maybe I need to stay. She sounds like a great coach... I stayed and we pushed all three years and now we’re going to nationals.”
Riley Bradbury was lights-out as her complement with 14 kills and 25 digs and was really on fire in Set 5. Reliable Jamie Siess had 25 digs, while setters Kaitlyn Heinis and Skylar Lane were on their game with 28 assists apiece. Others who came up huge with Devrie Sombers (5 aces), Rianne Richard, Leia Seiler, Mady Woog and Bree Wallace.
Mac is now 8-0 in 5-set matches this year.
“I think it has to do with our team chemistry,” Kite said. “If we make an error, no one ever gets down on the other, no one gets down on themselves. We’re always super-uplifting and helping to move on to the next point. In 5 sets, the fifth set there’s only 15 points, so you just have to stay up and never get down on one another. The difference from last year to this year, for sure, is that when the team is under pressure, we’re calm.”
At Sioux City, the 32 remaining teams are placed in eight pools of four. After three rounds of pool play, the top two from each pool will make it into the round of 16. From there it is win or go home. Pool assignments will be released later today and the Bulldogs will begin making preparations for a run at the national title.
AVILA — McPherson College men’s basketball coach Tim Swartzendruber shook up his starting lineup on Saturday after two straight losses.
Turned out to be a stroke of genius.
Chief benefactor was sophomore guard Chamaje Barideaux, who poured in 35 points to lead the Bulldogs to an 84-73 victory over Avila as they are now 1-1 in the KCAC and 4-2 on the year.
Barideaux poured in 8 of 12 from the field and 13 of 14 from the line. He lit it up from 3-point by draining 6 of 9.
Lual Magot, who played so well on Wednesday off the bench against Oklahoma Wesleyan, also was rewarded with his first start and scored 12 points while grabbing 7 rebounds.
“This was a great team win," Swartzendruber said. "Going on the road for the first time ever to Avila was not easy. I was extremely proud of how we responded in the second half when Avila made their run. We hit free throws down the stretch and that's what it takes to win close games."
The Bulldogs banked on their defense in the first half for a 31-25 lead, then the second half turned into a track meet as Mac scored 53 points to the Eagles’ 48. The Bulldogs shot 61 percent in the second half.
The Bulldogs return home on Tuesday to take on Tabor. Tip time is 8:00
Mac (84) — Magot 12, Gurley 2, Barideaux 35, Page 6, Oxford 4, Owen 3, Rivera 1, Munsen 8, Watts 7, Owens 4, Hightower 2.
Avila (73) — Phillips 18, Head 5, Heinrich 9, Boone 19, Benford 10, Dinkins 2, Cooke 4, Clark 5, Minor 1.
• AVILA WOMEN 72, MAC 57 — The offensive struggles continued for the Mac women as they now have lost their last two games since starting the year 5-0.
The Bulldogs were in a deep hole early as they were down 19-5 after 10 minutes as they couldn’t get going offensively.
They did get within 30-20 at the half, but then went cold until the fourth quarter when they scored 23, but it was too little, too late.
Mac is now 0-2 in the KCAC.
Sonerka White led the Bulldogs with 13, but was just 3 of 16 from the field. Double-double machine Brittany Roberts lived up to her reputation with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Mac again couldn’t buy a free throw, going 13 of 25 after making just 15 of 34 on Wednesday.
A plus was the play of Kyrstin Branscum off the bench as she scored 9 points on 4-of-7 shooting.
The Bulldogs play host to KCAC preseason favorite Tabor on Tuesday. Game time is 6:00
Mac (57) — Holt 8, Roberts 10, White 13, Tims 8, DeLuca 2, Harlow 5, Raimondi 2, Branscum 9.
Avila (72) — Bunn 12, Samara 4, Faulkner 21, Morgan 14, Westrom 11, Eary 9, Freeman 1.
Go to our sports gallery tab and see all of Kendall Shaw’s incredible photos from Friday’s McPherson High playoff football game against Goddard. Click on the images to make them bigger.
See all of Kendall’s work at his website at www.outdoorkansas.zenfolio.com.
To purchase photos, contact Kendall at 620-242-7232.
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Central Christian College’s men’s soccer team has seen enough of Southwestern Christian.
If you go by the previous three games, it was an average night for the Central
SOLOMON — In the end, there’s no substitute for experience.
Canton-Galva’s senior-less Eagles struck early and
Election Day Rides-call the TLC bus from McPherson Senior Center-FREE -- 620-241-1848
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History can be made tonight at McPherson Stadium.
When you consider the myriad of accomplishments McPherson High has achieved athletically in its history, there’s still one noticeable omission — the Bullpups have never played in a state championship football game.
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