GREENVILLE, S.C. -- After fighting off a resilient #7 Arlington Baptist and posting a dramatic comeback over #6 Toccoa Falls, the Sabercats have secured a place in the NCCAA national semifinals.
MBU will face #3 Geneva College tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. Eastern to determine the semifinal placements.
- #2 Maranatha 3-0 #7 Arlington (26-24, 25-22, 25-21)
- #2 Maranatha 3-2 #6 Toccoa Falls (25-14, 19-25, 20-25, 25-19, 15-13)
- Venue: Davis Field House, Bob Jones University
- Location: Greenville, S.C.
- Record: MBU is now 22-12
#7 Arlington Baptist
Maranatha looked composed and persistent on offense to get the tournament started, as they bombarded the Arlington defense right from the start. Claire Hansel was swinging freely in the first set, as the All-American knocked down six kills as the set progressed. But just when the Sabercats seemed to be gaining the upper hand, the Patriots stayed with it. After trailing the entire set, ABU came back to tie it at 23, then 24. Soon enough, however, a final hit from Hansel helped the Sabercats to a 26-24 win in the opener. Hansel finished the first set with seven kills off 17 attempts.
Both teams struggled with the miscues in the early exchanges of the second set. But three consecutive kills from MBU pushed them out to an 11-4 lead, forcing Arlington to call a timeout. As the second set matured, the Sabercats began to struggle with their serve receive, and Arlington took their first lead of the match at 20-19. In a tight finish, a couple of line shots from Jessica Ureke lifted the Sabercats to a 25-22 win. It was time for MBU to breathe a quick sigh of relief.
The Patriots kept swinging, though, as they showed that their resilience from the opening sets was characteristic of them as a team. But MBU showed the patience and persistence of national champions, as they kept feeding the Johnson sisters late in the set, who found the holes in the Arlington defense to give MBU a 25-21 win and a sweep of Arlington Baptist. Hansel logged 12 kills in the opening match while Karley Johnson and Kelsey Johnson (nine kills each) spearheaded the offensive efforts from MBU to amass 42 kills - tying their second-highest mark in a three-set match this season. McKenzie Janke played some scrappy defense and registered 19 digs - her third-best mark in a three-set match this season.
#6 Toccoa Falls
The Toccoa Falls match brought about a resemblance of 2017, which was when TFC was the first team to take a set off of the Sabercats in two years at NCCAA Nationals. After dropping the first set 25-14, the Screaming Eagles promptly took the next two frames to lead the match, 2-1.
The Sabercats found themselves in a completely unfamiliar situation: trailing in a national tournament match. But the Sabercats' response was worthy of their title, and they began a memorable comeback. Throughout the match, MBU recorded a season-high 63 kills, which was their highest mark as a team in the last six years.
Hansel was at it again in this one, as the sophomore fueled the comeback with one of her best performances of the season, racking up 18 kills and 17 digs in the match. Kelsey was right there as well, as she recorded 16 kills (career high), 30 assists (career high), and 9 digs in the five-set thriller. Janke had her hands full, as she recorded 32 digs - her highest career mark and a season-best total for anyone wearing MBU colors. The champions were showing their heart as a team and as individuals.
Down 9-13 in the final set and seemingly finished, the Sabercats rallied with a 6-0 run to take home an unlikely win and keep their title quest on track.
- Hansel: 31 kills on the day
- Karley: Passed the 1,500 career assists mark
- Kelsey: 25 kills, 58 assists on the day
- Kelsey: Her 16 kills and 30 assists against TFC were career-high marks
- Allyson Brimer: career-best 6 blocks against Toccoa Falls
- Janke: finished the day with 51 digs
- Kills: MBU 109 on the day
- ABU Series: The Sabercats hold a 3-0 record against the Patriots
- TFC Series: MBU holds a 5-0 advantage in the series
The Sabercats have locked themselves in for a semifinal berth and will face #3 Geneva College tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. EST to decide the semifinal pairings. Geneva has swept Arlington and Toccoa Falls already this tournament, and are somewhat of an unknown factor. Follow at mbusabercats.com/composite.