Three Times a Charm: Sabercats Win Third Straight National Championship
- Result: #3 Maranatha 3-0 #1 Kentucky Christian (25-19, 25-21, 25-17)
- Venue: Davis Field House, Bob Jones University
- Attendance: 428
- Record: Sabercats finish the year at 24-14, and 8-0 in the postseason
GREENVILLE, S.C. -- With all of the pressure of back-to-back titles on them, the Sabercats showed determination and aplomb to capture their third consecutive national championship.
The Sabercats came out in typical fashion, with a balanced attack featuring all 5 of the Sabercats' protagonists. Behind the varied attack, MBU found themselves with a 13-3 lead in the first set. A 7-0 KCU run closed the gap to 13-10, but a kill and an ace from Karley Johnson halted the Knights' run.
Despite 9 hitting errors, the Sabercats fought off the inevitable championship-match jitters to close out the opener. MBU had the set point at 24-13, but KCU posted 6 straight to argue MBU's opening statement. A well-placed tip from Alexis Bueltel finally put the set away for Maranatha.
Johnson and Claire Hansel both registered 4 kills and the Sabercats cruised to a 25-19 win.
The second set was back and forth from the start. Neither team controlled the flow, and it was the psychological battle that comes after two long days of postseason play. Bueltel and Suderman struck late in the set to give MBU a 20-16 lead, which they would close out to the tune of 25-21.
Bueltel led a 15-kill offensive effort in the second set. The senior tallied 5 kills in the second act to lead the charge.
The third set yielded a similar story to the second: neither team had lasting momentum in the opening exchanges, and the Sabercats struggled to get into an offensive rhythm. Just when the Knights began to gain control of the set, some scrappy defending from Katie Bender and Kelsey Johnson gave the Sabercats newfound energy. The Sabercats stayed organized and disciplined to take some crucial mid-set points, which forced KCU to call 2 straight timeouts.
As the set matured, the seniors stepped up. Bueltel continued her powerful attacking and Bender seemed to be everywhere on defense.
Gabrielle Carpenter came off the bench to add 2 decisive late kills, and with the Knights' backs against the wall, Hansel slammed down her 10th kill of the match to win the national title.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
The Sabercats finished with 44 kills and a .256 attack percentage.
Bender led the defense with 29 digs.
Kelsey Johnson contributed 26 assists.
Bueltel and Suderman earned all-tournament honors.
This was the fifth time since 2010 that the Sabercats have beaten the Knights in national championship play.
With the win, the Sabercats win their third straight NCCAA Division II National Championship. Maranatha finishes the season with a record of 24-14, and an 11-1 record in NCCAA Division II play.
A full recap of the season will be released at a later date.