The Faith volleyball team traveled to Minneapolis, MN this past weekend to participate in the North Central University Invitational Tournament. The tournament consisted of NCAA Division III and NCCAA Division II opponents. The Eagles began the tournament on Friday against Crown College. The first set saw Faith struggle with serve receive errors and missed serves, which would become a common difficulty throughout the tournament. Faith lost the first set 25-19 largely due to a .059 attack percent compared with Crown at .157. Faith responded better in set two but came up short in a tight contest at 27-25. The Eagles were finally able to capture a win in set three 25-22, only to falter in set four 25-15 and lose the match. "We had an opportunity in set two to get back into contention. Untimely serving errors and serve receive passing need to be eliminated. We did well in winning set three but then reverted back to some bad habits in the final set," noted Coach Nihart. Freshmen Abby Booth led the Eagles offensively with 10 kills. Junior Samantha Betz garnered 6 kills and 5 digs. Sophomore Cara Hodak led with 31 digs and Junior Shannon Steffen added 14.
Faith then took on NCCAA II foe Providence University College from Otterburne, Canada (Manitoba). The Eagles showed good intensity in set one against the hard-hitting Pilots, but ended with a 26-24 loss. The Eagles increased their attack percent to .158 but gave up .250 to Providence. The loss created a tailspin and found the Pilot's capturing the next two sets and the match by scores of 25-14 and 25-12. "We went into a day end slump defensively. We gave up nearly 13 kills per set which is not going to win many matches." Faith was led by Betz with 5 kills and Booth with 4. Freshmen setter Jayden Webster led the Eagles with 7 assists.
On Saturday, Faith played Grinnell College and host North Central University losing both contests. "We wanted to rebound from Friday's losses. We emphasized giving maximum effort in both individual and team aspects. We did not meet the goal in the Grinnell game, but we did come away from the North Central loss with positives," noted Nihart. The Eagles, playing a much taller Grinnell team, found themselves down quickly in set one losing 25-14. Grinnell, behind middle hitter Olivia Jensen's 14 kills, led throughout the entire contest and took sets two and three 25-18 and 25-11.
The North Central contest was close throughout all 4 matches. Set one found NCU getting the win, despite the Eagles holding the better hitting percentage. Set two was the determining factor. Faith went up 26-25 after a Jayden Webster service ace, only to let NCU comeback and tie with a hitting error. The teams traded kills to remain tied at 27-27. Abby Booth put the Eagles up 28-27 with a kill, but a serving error tied the score at 28-28. NCU then followed with a service ace to go up 29-28, but Booth found another kill to knot the score at 29-29. Again, the Eagles gained the lead after an Emilie Morton serving ace at 30-29. But NCU would finish with 3 straight kills to take the set 32-30. Faith would not give up and found themselves getting a set three win. In set 4 the Eagles led 19-18 but service errors proved critical and led to a 25-22 loss. Faith was led in hitting by freshmen Bekah Smith (13 kills), Abby Booth (13 kills), and Alicia Smith (9 kills). Emilie Morton had a season high 40 assists and libero Cara Hodak led with 21 digs.
"As coaches we were able to define productive rotations. We had a group of individuals in the NCU match that demonstrated the desire to win. We definitely will be going with a 5-1 with senior setter Emily Morton. We are much more consistent with her on the floor 100% of the time and being a co-captain it is important she is on the floor. Hopefully, we can eliminate serve receive errors and increase our lack of production in attack percentage," noted Nihart.
The Eagles are back at home Tuesday, September 12, against Emmaus Bible College (Dubuque, IA) at 6 PM.