ALLIANCE – The Heidelberg University volleyball team staved off two potentially season-ending match points en route to a 3-2 win over Ohio Northern University in the semifinals of the OAC Tournament.
The win pushes Heidelberg into the conference finals for the sixth time in seven years. They await the winner of the Otterbein-Mount Union match, held Friday evening. Per conference rules, the OAC's automatic qualifier into the NCAA Tournament goes to the #1 if they advance to the finals of the tournament. Because Heidelberg and Mount Union were co-champions of the regular season, they are both eligible for the AQ spot. If Otterbein wins on Friday, Heidelberg will automatically receive the bid. If Mount Union wins, the Purple Raiders and Student Princes will play tomorrow for the bid.
In the first set, the Student Princes jumped out to a 6-0 lead. After the teams traded points, Ohio Northern embarked on a 5-0 run to take a 15-14 lead. The Polar Bears would win the set 25-20.
The second set featured several runs on both sides. ONU's four point rally was answered by a five-point run by Heidelberg. The Polar Bears responded with a five-point blitz of their own, which the Student Princes countered with a four-point run. Keyed by the play of Sarah Parker and Amber Welfle, The Berg closed out the set on a 14-8 run to win 25-18.
In the third set, an 8-0 run by Ohio Northern was too much for the Student Princes to overcome. The Polar Bears took a 2-1 lead in the match with a 25-23 victory.
The fourth set, much like the previous three, was a back-and-forth affair. With the score knotted at 20, Parker and Stephanie Romie combined for a block at the net. The point spurred a 5-1 rally that gave Heidelberg a 25-21 victory.
The Polar Bears opened the deciding set with a 6-1 run. Behind the power serves from Jamie Kluding, the Student Princes scored four straight to force ONU into a timeout. At 8-6 in favor of ONU, the teams switched sides. A kill from the left-handed Stephanie Romie tied the match at 9. The set extended into extra points before a block from Janessa Scott sealed victory for the Student Princes.
"They have a will to win," said head coach Jason Miller. "They do some great things and they do some dumb things, but these kids want to win."
"In my 14 years as coach, I've never had a group who wanted to win as much as these kids," concluded Miller.
The Student Princes will have their chance on Saturday. The OAC Tournament finals will start at 2 p.m. in Alliance.