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Photo credit: Bridger Buchi
Photo credit: Bridger Buchi

North Central, North Park Jettison Sabercats at Concordia Quad

CHICAGO -- Pitched up against two NCAA regional contenders North Central College and North Park University, the Sabercats saw their season record slip back to 3-3 after they registered 39 hitting errors - 65 errors all told - on a night they will be quick to forget.

Maranatha vs North Central

Result: MBU 0-3 NCC (13-25, 21-25, 20-25)

To start the evening, the Sabercats were held to just 13 points on the set by the tall, hard-hitting Cardinals. NCC came out swinging, and 7 consecutive kills forced Regina DeLozier to call a timeout to regroup the Sabercats. From there, the Sabercats rallied to pull the set back to 4 points, but NCC mustered some late surges to put MBU away in the first set. It was actually NCC who gave the Sabercats most of their points, as 7 hitting errors bolstered MBU's tally in set 1.

The Sabercats then settled down and made the second set more of a challenge for the Cardinals. In fact, Maranatha held on to a narrow lead for the better part of the set, as kills from Claire Hansel, Alexis Bueltel, and Kelsey Johnson kept the Sabercats on top. MBU's momentum would not last, though, as powerful play at the net for NCC would be a critical difference-maker. After 2 sets, it was MBU 0-2 NCC.

The final set was just as competitive as the second in terms of score, but the standard of precision at the net was sub-par for both schools, who combined for 18 hitting errors in the match's finale. MBU still ultimately fell short and were victimized by the attacks of Julie Laugel and Cara Howell, who notched 16 and 10 kills, respectively, in the three-set fixture.

Bueltel's contribution in the first match included 7 kills, 9 digs, 2 solo blocks and 3 block assists. Katie Bender logged 13 digs while Karley Johnson pitched in 18 assists.

Maranatha vs North Park

Result: MBU 1-3 NPU (25-19, 20-25, 15-25, 20-25)

To the Sabercats' credit, they polished up their hitting in the second match of the evening, as a strong turnaround (11 kills against 3 errors) led them to a 25-19 win in their first set against North Park. Bueltel and Hansel led the Sabercats out of the gate with multiple kills apiece while Bender led an alert defense, picking up a season-high 26 digs in the match. Late kills from Bueltel, Gabrielle Carpenter and Madeline Suderman came at crucial times for MBU, who maintained momentum to cruise to the opening-set win.

The second set looked to be more of the same, as early kills from Bueltel and Suderman led MBU out to a 6-2 lead. However, the Vikings remained resolute and forced a turnaround with precise hitting (16 kills against 3 errors). The Sabercats' last lead came at 12-11, and from then on, the Vikings held the Sabercats off to secure the match-tying set win.

The Vikings did not look back from that point on, as more effective hitting in the third set allowed them to pillage MBU for the most lopsided set win of the match. NPU had 3 players tally a dozen or more kills in the match, and a 25-15 win for NPU in the third set fixed the momentum squarely in their favor.

Full credit goes to the Sabercats, who attempted to bounce back after that loss in the third set. MBU held a narrow lead out of the gate, but the Vikings soon found their attacking rhythm and proceeded to hold a comfortable lead from the middle of the set until the end, securing a 25-20 win to take the match 3-1. 

Karley Johnson made life easier for the Sabercats' attack, who turned 30 of Johnson's sets into assists with some determined hitting in the second match.

Next up for the Sabercats will be the MSOE Invitational held at the Kern Center in Milwaukee this weekend. The tournament begins Friday at 4 p.m. when the Sabercats face Alverno College.

Find details of the Invitational at