Bluffton 3, Mount St. Joseph 2
November 5, 2013
CINCINNATI, Ohio - Down two sets to Mount St. Joseph in the Heartland Conference tournament, 'no sweat' said the Beavers. Been there, done that. Looking for a miraculous comeback much like Bluffton needed in 2009 when the Lions took the first two sets in the HCAC title game at Founders Hall, the Beavers stayed calm like their leader, Head Coach Steve Yarnell, and chipped away en route to a stunning five-set win over MSJ in the opening round of the HCAC tournament on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Bluffton ended Mount St. Joseph's season for the third time in the last five years with the come-from behind victory on Tuesday evening. In the process, the Beavers did something that no other team has done in the 16-year history of the Heartland Conference and that was to knock MSJ out before the semifinal round. Two years ago, Bluffton snapped MSJ's string of 13 straight trips to the tournament's final game.
Sluggish starts in the first two sets were too much to overcome as MSJ opened a 2-0 lead over the Beavers before Bluffton could get untracked. The Lions led 16-11 in the lidlifter and 9-3 in set two en route to a pair of 25-19 victories despite late rallies by the visitors in each set.
With a chance to close out the Beavers, MSJ went up 5-2 early in the third before the tide began to turn. The Beavers opened an 18-15 lead before seven of the next 11 points went MSJ's way for a 23-22 lead that had the home team two serves away from a season-ending sweep of Bluffton. Three straight hitting errors by the Lions kept the Beavers alive as Bluffton claimed a 25-23 victory.
Using the momentum gained from the end of the third set, Bluffton bolted out to a 7-1 lead with MacKenzie McFarlin (Ashland) and Hailey Phillips (Malinta/Patrick Henry) lighting it up from the service line. The Beavers led 14-8 and 17-12, but MSJ would not go away. The Lions tied the score at 23, 24 and 25 before sophomores Brooke Ruffer (Stryker) and Kendra Parmenter (Grove City) pounded back-to-back winners from Sara Roth (Findlay/Van Buren), evening the match at two sets apiece.
An 11-5 spread in set five had Bluffton ready to charge the floor, however, the party would have to wait as MSJ rolled off six straight counters to knot the rubber match at 11. Ties at 13, 14 and 15 set the stage for some late heroics by Parmenter and Phillips. A Parmenter spike made it 16-15 and Phillips sealed the deal with a match-clinching ace for the 17-15 victory.
Kendra Parmenter and Jenny Brown (St. Marys/Memorial) paced Bluffton with 12 and nine kills, respectively. McFarlin was solid, just missing out on a double-double with 14 digs and eight kills to go along with her team-best four aces. Ruffer and Roth shared the setting duties with 24 and 14 assists, respectively.
Roth added 10 digs for a double-double and she rifled three aces for the victors. Phillips picked up a match-high 24 digs to go along with her crucial serve. Brown topped the Beavers with five block assists.
Bluffton will enjoy the evening before going back to work on Wednesday when the Beavers will take what they learned at Lexington, Ky., last Saturday and formulate a game plan for their HCAC semifinal opponent Transylvania University. Following host Defiance's matchup with #5 seed Hanover College at 2 p.m., Bluffton will meet the second-seeded Pioneers at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 9.