November 30, 2012
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – The clock struck midnight on the finest season in TMC volleyball history at the end of the first round of single-elimination play in the 2012 NAIA National Championships.
The Lady Mustangs’ 2012 campaign came to end in four sets (25-27, 27-25, 22-25, 22-25) by means of a decisive kill by Oklahoma Baptist’s Sabra Clark.
But in the midst of the tears shed by the Lady Mustangs and the Mustang faithful who made the trek to Sioux City, a sense of accomplishment was shared by all.
“I remember sitting underneath Yosemite Falls during our annual team retreat and we talked about what we wanted to accomplish in the coming year,” commented Coach Bobby Blanken. “The girls were extremely serious about playing for a national championship. Personally, I didn’t think they fully knew what that meant, but they were committed to the idea of giving 100% and doing the absolute most to have the opportunity.”
As the Mustangs’ season progressed, TMC tallied win after win and proved to be able to hang on with the nation’s best. In fact, the Lady Mustangs possessed a solid record of competing with nationally-ranked teams as they topped four NAIA Top 25 powers during the course of the 2012 campaign. On November 6, TMC came within three points in the fifth and final set of beating conference rival and top-ranked Concordia.
The Mustangs’ regular-season schedule ended with a 26-5 (10-4 in conference play) overall record, good enough to earn them a first-round bye in the opening round of the 2012 NAIA National Tournament.
Down but not out, Blanken and his Mustangs navigated their way through a four-set match against Indiana Wesleyan (IWU) on Thursday, followed by winning two back-to-back tiebreakers against Cal State San Marcos and IWU, giving the Mustangs the green light to advance to the single-elimination bracket against Oklahoma Baptist.
When all was said and done, the Lady Mustangs played nearly four straight hours of volleyball on Thursday night.
“Yesterday when things didn’t go the way we wanted it to, we all thought it was over. I feel like God was teaching us to be perseverant and we did. We were blessed to be given the chance to be in the mix with the nation’s Top 12 (teams).”
The Mustangs took that chance and faced the Bison of Oklahoma Baptist at noon on Friday.
The Bison got out to a 12-6 lead in the first set, but TMC’s offense remained resilient and rallied to take a 24-23 lead. Ashley Newton (Henderson, NV) tied the match at 25-25 with a kill. OBU put the set away with consecutive kills by Tarah Derden and Sabra Clark.
OBU started the second set strong as it created a 20-12 advantage. But the Lady Mustangs struck back, scoring five straight points to slice the deficit to 24-22. A kill by Rebecca Peluffo (La Crescenta, CA) and a Bison attack error by OBU kill-leader Kristin Pressley tied the match at 24. Aubrey Bekendam (Orland, CA) and Ashley Newton tallied back-to-back kills, giving the Mustangs a 27-25 victory.
Momentum then shifted in favor of the Mustangs in the third set as TMC led the Lady Bison at 13-8. But OBU used three kills during a 7-0 run to take a 15-13 lead. The battle continued and the Lady Mustangs cut the Bison lead to 23-22 before Pressley recorded two consecutive kills for the win.
TMC entered the fourth set facing a must-win situation. With their season hanging in the balance, the Lady Mustangs started the set by keeping the margins close, tying the game nine separate times with the final coming at 13-all. Around this time, Mustang standout outside hitter Sam Dougherty (Madera, CA) suffered an untimely head injury and was forced to exit the match per doctor’s orders. The Bison capitalized on Dougherty’s absence, surging to a 23-19 lead. The Lady Mustangs came together and gave it their all by cutting OBU’s lead to 23-22. However, TMC’s title dreams were dashed by way of consecutive kills from Pressely, ending the match at 27-25.
Rachel Taylor (Sun Valley, CA) led the Mustangs with 18 kills followed by Victoria Callihan (Simi Valley, CA) with 12. Alyssa Gergins (Murrieta, CA) had 32 assists and 13 digs to go with her four kills. Gergins also notched one of the Mustangs' two aces.
Defensively, TMC tallied 96 digs. Peluffo led with 26 digs and was followed by Dougherty with 22. Stacey Jones (Scottsdale, AZ) claimed four blocks throughout the match.
At the end of four sets the Mustangs’ efforts were not in vain as Coach Blanken encouraged his squad to hold their heads high in wake of the loss.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our girls. Our seniors, in particular, contributed so much to rebuilding a struggling and unsuccessful program. It’s really special to see how committed the squad was to the idea of winning the championship. I’m very proud of our girls.”
The Mustangs will graduate Taylor, Callihan, and Jenna Kapuscinski (Sylmar, CA). The senior trio led the Mustangs to a 27-8 (10-4 GSAC) season, a far cry from the consecutive 2-18 seasons they experienced as freshmen and sophomores.
As the Lady Mustangs make their way back home from Iowa, the team leaves with the confidence that they will be back in Sioux City this time next year for another shot at a national title.
To review the Lady Mustang’s 2012 season, click here.